India fought back to make Day 1 interesting as they reduced South Africa to 269/6 at stumps in the second Test at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on a hot sunny day.
South Africa looked like running away with the game after their batsmen atop made some useful contributions, but Ravichandran Ashwin got the visitors back into the game. Credit also goes to Hardik Pandya for reversing the table with a sheer presence of mind in getting well set Hashim Amla run out towards the end of the day. The duo have kept India in the game and after a dramatic 1st day, the tourists will hope to wrap things up quickly and then set out to bat.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis (24*) and Keshav Maharaj (10*) are at the crease as the Proteas will feel satisfied seeing their batsmen getting some runs on a very surprising Centurion pitch. There was not much movement and also at times the ball kept low. It assisted Ashwin and also looked like a very good wicket to bat on and their trio atop made most use of it.
Ashwin was pick of the Indian bowlers with figures of 3/91. It was good to see Virat handing him the bulk of overs on a pitch deprived of any grass. Ashwin brought all his experience into play and dished out a commendable performance. He will know that the job is in its process and he can get a maiden five-for in South African soil on Day 2.
- Ashwin bowled 31 overs on Day 1. It is the most by a spinner at Centurion since the year 2000.
- His 3/90 was his best show against the Proteas overseas.
The best moment of the day was Pandya’s dismissal of Amla that paved the way for India to make inroads and get an extra two wickets in the form of Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander in a space of just 14 deliveries. Besides Ashwin, Ishant Sharma bowled his heart out and got the prized wicket of AB de Villiers. He was the most economical bowler of the day. Ishant who was given a chance in this game, bowled solidly and hardly gave anything away.
Ashwin: Overs 31, Maiden 8, Runs 90, Wickets 3
Ishant: Overs 16, Maiden 3, Runs 32, Wickets 1
Earlier, as noted prior to this Test that Indian skipper Virat Kohli would have selection issues, he responded by making three changes to the side. Shikhar Dhawan and Wriddhiman Saha were left out as Bhuvneshwar Kumar was surprisingly excluded. KL Rahul, Parthiv Patel and Ishant came in for the trio.
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The exclusion of Bhuvi who shined in the first Test with six-wicket match haul, got many fans, ex-players and pundits surprised. Former South African pacer Allan Donald was one of them, who took to social media site Twitter to express his feelings. India seemed to miss Bhuvi on a day where Bumrah was plundered for runs and so was Mohammed Shami as the duo were inaccurate for most part of the day.
The Proteas, who elected to bat, made most use of the conditions plundering 85 runs for the first wicket. South African openers Dean Elgar was very watchful and Aiden Markram looked good and did away with all the loose balls. Markram was the star of the show from the start after collecting five boundaries off Bumrah in the span of nine balls faced from him. Just before the lunch-break, Markram drove and pulled Pandya for consecutive fours as a single in the next ball helped him to get to his fifty.
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Both the openers were threatening to get a first 100-run opening stand in the series, but India pegged back. Murali Vijay pulled off a sharp catch at silly point to send Elgar back. Ashwin was creating problems for Elgar and was rewarded. But Markram continued with his stellar show getting boundaries at ease. He added another 63 runs with Hashim Amla before surrendering all the hard work as Ashwin grabbed his 2nd.
Elgar/Markram – 85 runs (1st wicket)
Markram/Amla – 63 runs (2nd wicket)
Amla took over from there on and showed why he is so pivotal in that No. 3. His innings of 82 was of sheer quality as he piled on the misery to make the Indian bowlers toil more hard. He also brought up the most runs (1284) scored in Centurion by any batsman of the game.
But it was that final session that helped India after De Villier’s dismissal. India will be happy to get a sniff and Kohli will be satisfied. But both Bumrah and Shami need to pull up their socks on Day 2 if India want to prevent the Proteas from chipping in to get a big score.