India’s batting in the pace and bouncy conditions once again let them down after having gained the momentum with the ball earlier in Day 1 of the first Test against South Africa at Cape Town.
The memories of the uncomfortable past against pacers haunted India once again as they stutter at 28/3 at stumps. Importantly their main batsman and leader of the pack Virat Kohli is back to the pavilion. Kohli managed just five runs after fending straight to the wicket-keeper off a rising Morne Morkel delivery. The Indian captain was beaten by sheer pace as he got drawn into the ball to offer a simple catch to Quinton de Kock.
That very line outside the off-stump was England’s ploy in India’s last tour of the country, and Kohli submitted himself in similar fashion in Newlands.
The brief passage of India’s innings was a mix of wrong shots and equally good bowling that summed up an intriguing 1st day’s play. The way the batsmen responded to the South African pacers have left the Test match in an interesting position with the hosts believing their four-man pace attack will get the job done easily.
India were hurt by two major instances in the game. Firstly, despite being on top with the ball, and reducing the Proteas to 146/5, they allowed the South African lower order batsmen to put in some vital contributions with the bat. Four of their batters in the lower order scored good amount of runs alongside wicket-keeper batsman De Kock (46) to hurt India and get to a commendable 286.
Although India did a good job by reducing the hosts under 300, they know that they could have been more clinical to reduce them with a much lesser score. Secondly, Shikhar Dhawan’s dismissal of a nothing shot helped the Proteas to gain more confidence. Dhawan started off well but got out moments after Murali Vijay lost his wicket by playing loosely outside off to Vernon Philander. He presented Dean Elgar with a simple catch at gully.
Dhawan with Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease needed to see off the day but he allowed the Proteas too get the better of him. He gifted his wicket to Dale Steyn. The short ball had no shot for the taking, but Dhawan went for a pull and handed over a straight forward catch.
Dhawan earlier had dropped a sitter off Keshav Maharaj at slips when the batsman was at nought. He then went on to score 35 runs as it pinched India.
These two instances of the opening batsman on the field handed the momentum to Faf du Plessis’ side. Pujara and Rohit Sharma managed to keep South Africa’s bowlers at bay for the few overs left, and India ended the day still trailing by 258. The Proteas quartet of Morkel, Philander, Steyn and Kagiso Rabada will be coming hard at the Indians on Day Two. Interestingly, Rohit and Pujara are the only recognised batsmen left with Ajinkya Rahane excluded for Hardik Pandya.
Earlier, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the pick of Indian bowlers and justified his selection with three quick wickets at the top. Bhuvi got the ball to talk and asked tough questions to the South African batsmen. He finished the day with 4/87 and would have wanted the support that did not come. AB de Villiers and Faf stole the show with hard-hitting fifties and then it was the tail that won the duel against Indian bowlers.
The pacer admitted that the bowling attack gave away 30 runs too many as South Africa reached 286 in their first innings despite being reduced to 12 for 3 within the first half an hour. “If we want to be hard on ourselves, then yes we did give away a few too many runs to South Africa. I think they scored 25-30-odd extra runs. In every hour of play, there were 2-3 overs, where we gave away easy boundaries. That is an area we can improve on,” Bhuvneshwar said at the post-match conference.
Brief Score, 1st Test, Day 1: South Africa (1st innings) – 286/10 (AB de Villiers 65, Faf du Plessis 62) lead India 28/3 (Dhawan 16) by 258 runs.