Centurion – Another intriguing day of cricket at Centurion has moved the second Test between the Proteas and India along significantly, and while it could still go either way, it is perhaps the hosts who will feel slightly better about their chances.
At stumps on day three, South Africa were 90/2 and 118 runs ahead with Dean Elgar (36*) and AB de Villiers (50*) set.
SCOREBOARD: Proteas v India - 2nd Test, Day 3
The importance of De Villiers' innings cannot be understated after he came to the wicket with the Proteas in early trouble at 3/2.
India, of course, need to win this match to keep alive their hopes of winning a Test series in South Africa for the first time.
Their skipper, Virat Kohli, did all he could with a superb knock of 153 the highlight of the first half of the day.
Regardless of the lead that South Africa eventually post in this match, India will back themselves to chase it down because of their captain.
Kohli was majestic, carving out 15 boundaries in his 217-ball stay at the wicket, but he ran out of partners as India eventually fell for 307, 28 runs behind South Africa’s first innings total of 335.
Hardik Pandya’s amateurish running between the wickets cost his side dearly when he dawdled back to the striker’s end only to be run out by Vernon Philander, but then there was significant resistance from Ravichandran Ashwin (38) before he fell victim to Philander.
Morne Morkel (4/60) was tasked with wrapping things up, and he did so clinically by getting rid of Mohammed Shami (1), Ishant Sharma (3) and Kohli, who was left trying to clear the ropes at every opportunity.
India, through Jasprit Bumrah, had gotten themselves off to
the best possible start in South Africa’s second innings by getting rid of
Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla, both LBW and both for 1.
Bumrah’s slippery length was a problem for the batters in both dismissals, as Amla and Markram got caught on their crease when they should have gone forward.
That left South Africa 3/2 and India, for the first time since they had the Proteas 12/3 on day one of the first Test in Cape Town, smelt blood.
If they could have gotten another wicket or two soon after that, they would have moved into the lead in this Test match.
Instead, they were greeted by a motivated De Villiers, who was calculated in every shot he played, some of which were glorious.
Elgar, meanwhile, was as dogged as ever.
He battled at times, but getting through those times is precisely what has made him such a valuable member of this South African top order.
A brief, but heavy thundershower put a stop to proceedings just after tea for a little more than an hour.
The rain came down, stopped and then the super sopper did its thing, and when De Villiers and Elgar returned at 68/2 the floodlights were on.
India tried to use the cooler, damper conditions to their advantage by going back to their seamers, and Bumrah should have had his third shortly after the resumption.
He tested Elgar with a vicious short delivery, and all the left-hander could do was fend and edge off behind the stumps.
It was always Parthiv Patel’s catch, but for some reason he left it for Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip, who was nowhere near attempting the catch.
The ball raced away to the fence and India had let a golden opportunity slip. Kohli, as is now expected, was livid.
De Villiers got to his 42nd Test 50 off 78 balls, and almost immediately after that the players were off for bad light.