Centurion: Ravichandran Ashwin’s best figures on South African soil and Hardik Pandya’s brilliance in the field helped India claw back into the contest after the Proteas had it relatively easy initially on the first day’s play of the second Test match at the Supersport Park in Centurion on Saturday.
Indian skipper once again surprised many with his team for the second Test as Ajinkya Rahane once again was absent from the playing XI. Shikhar Dhawan, who failed to cope up with the bounce in Cape Town made way for KL Rahul. Also, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was replaced by Ishant Sharma due to the pitch not offering lateral movement and wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha left out, as Parthiv Patel made it to the playing XI.
For the hosts however, local boy Lungisani Ngidi replaced the injured Dale Steyn. South African skipper Faf Du Plessis won the toss and opted to bat first and his decision was well justified by openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram, who went on to register an 84-run stand to push the hosts on the backfoot.
Having prepared for a pacy and bouncy pitch, the seamers failed to provide the initial breakthroughs, which was unlikely provided by Ravichandran Ashwin, who got the better of Elgar after he failed to put away a short ball and instead handed a catch to Murali Vijay at silly point. But Markram continued with his good form at the other end as he looked good for a big total, before he was dismissed by Ashwin, who had the batsman caught behind at 94.
Much to the shock of the crowd, Markram had to make his way back and in came a dashing AB De Villiers, who made a 48-ball 20 before he being bowled off an inside-edge off the bowling of Ishant Sharma. From 85/1, South Africa were 199/3 and one could sense that the visitors were slowly clawing their way back into the match. The experienced Hashim Amla, who has had a good time with the bat in Centurion rose to the occasion and stood tall for a classy 82.
When he looked all set to pile on more misery for the visitors, a misjudgement from skipper Du Plessis coupled with a moment of brilliance on the field for Pandya got the better of Amla, who was run out courtesy a direct hit. All of a sudden, India were back into the contest. Amla, nonetheless now has 1284 runs, which is the most by a batsman in Test cricket at the venue.
Ashwin however wasn’t done as his third victim for the day was wicket-keeper batsman Quinton De Kock, who was caught at first slip to leave South Africa at 250/5. Pandya’s athleticism helped India end the first day on a high as they ran out Vernon Philander as well for a duck.
India, nonetheless would be the happier camp at the end of the day and would look to restrict the hosts to under 350. Faf Du Plessis (24 n.o) and Keshav Maharaj (10 n.o) are at the crease with South Africa at 269/6.
South Africa 269/6 (Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 82; Ravichandran Ashwin 3/90) vs India.