Centurion: Indian skipper Virat Kohli stood tall amidst all the other batsmen as India ended the day at 183/5, chasing South Africa’s first innings total of 335 at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, South Africa ended their first innings on 335 after Proteas skipper Faf Du Plessis batted with grit with the tail to ensure that a respectable total is put on the board. Du Plessis batted well for his 63 of 142 balls and added 31 runs with Keshav Maharaj (18), 42 with Kagiso Rabada (11) and nine with Morkel. Mohammad Shami, after dismissing Maharaj became the third fastest Indian pacer to take 100 Test wickets after Kapil Dev (25 Tests) and Irfan Pathan (28 Tests).
In reply, India got off to a steady start with Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, battling it out to create a strong foundation. But their plans of doing so received a major blow when two quick wickets fell with the score at 28. First it was Rahul (10) who offered a simple caught-and-bowled chance to Morkel, who didn’t let go of the catch in his follow-through. In the very next ball, Cheteshwar Pujara who had just come to bat attempted a quick single and ended up falling short of the crease after debutant Lungisani Ngidi’s direct hit at the non-striker’s end.
Reduced to 28/2 in no time, the Indian innings needed to be rebuilt and Vijay along with Kohli were the ones to do the job. The duo batted with patience mixed with aggression as they stitched a crucial 79-run partnership that helped India gain control over the match.
When the pace attack was blunted by the Indian duo, Maharaj did the trick with the ball as he sent back Vijay as he had him caught behind by Quinton De Kock. Vijay, who had applied a lot of patience and determination for his 46 runs of 126 balls, was absolutely furious with himself after he misjudged the length of the ball.
Rohit Sharma, whose selection in the playing XI has faced a lot of criticism was the next man to go after a fiery delivery from Kagiso Rabada had him caught right in front of the crease. Wicket-keeper batsman Parthiv Patel, who had replaced Wriddhiman Saha in this match too had a brief time at the crease for 19 runs before he fell victim to Ngidi, who took his first wicket in the format.
When all the the batsmen around him kept losing their wickets, skipper Kohli held fort at the other end with rock-solid determination as he batted with intent and swagger for his unbeaten 85 runs on a pitch where batting is indeed difficult. He was joined by Hardik Pandya, who hit a couple of graceful boundaries as India now are just 152 runs away from the South African total.
The game is in the balance at the moment as with Kohli at the crease, India have a very good chance to get near to the Proteas total or even surpass it. On the other hand, the hosts need just one more wicket to expose the tail.
India 183/5 (Virat Kohli 85 n.o, Murali Vijay 46; Lungisani Ngidi’s 1/26) trail South Africa 335 all out (Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 82; Ravichandran Ashwin 4/11) by 152 runs.