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India vs South Africa | Ashwin Four-fer Gives India Lead After Maharaj & Philander’s Rearguard Action

Just like in the first Test, SA began the third day in Pune with their backs to the wall after losing three quick wickets in the final hour the evening before.

Cricketnext Staff |October 12, 2019, 4:59 PM IST
India vs South Africa | Ashwin Four-fer Gives India Lead After Maharaj & Philander’s Rearguard Action

South Africa, just like in the first Test, began the third day in Pune with their backs to the wall after losing three quick wickets in the final hour the evening before. India needed seven wickets quickly, whereas South Africa were battling to save the game and would need a monumental effort on the day.

Eventually, though India managed to get those seven wickets to wrap up the first innings, the seventh coming off the last ball of the day as the South Africans conceded a 326-run first inning lead.

The doggedness was on display, but from the unlikeliest players in the form of Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander with a ninth wicket partnership that lasted over 40 overs and had the Indian think tank puzzled. That, though, was only after the top order collapsed for the second straight innings.

Theunis de Bruyn (30) and Anrich Nortje (8) added only five runs to their overnight score before Virat Kohli dived full length at slip and snapped up the fast bowler’s edge off Mohammed Shami's bowling. South Africa at 4/41 had their best batsman Faf du Plessis (64) walking in.

12 runs later, Umesh Yadav picked up his third wicket as Wriddhiman Saha took a blinder behind the stumps to end De Bruyn’s shaky resistance and leave the Proteas tottering at 5/53.

Quinton de Kock, a hero from the first innings in Vizag, would have loved to do an encore but the spinners Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin weren’t making life easy with lunch approaching.

At the other end Du Plessis was slowly chipping away at the lead, almost fighting a lone battle.

De Kock put on a 75-run sixth wicket stand with the captain as they steadied the ship, somewhat, before Ashwin tossed it up and invited the batsman to come onto the front foot, only to cut him in half and knock over the stumps to dismiss him for 31 off 48 deliveries before lunch.

Du Plessis with Senuran Muthusamy (7) in tow restarted post lunch, but the spinner could not stick around for too long as he did not offer a shot to Jadeja, and Nigel Llong after a little thought put up his finger.

Du Plessis, who did not need a second invitation to put the bad deliveries away especially with his partners falling away at rapid pace, thrashed Jadeja through the covers to complete his half century, while Philander at the other end decided to put his head down and defend till he got his first runs of the tour.

Kohli as expected was depending heavily on Ashwin and Jadeja for wickets, and the off-spinner provided the big one when he had the South African captain caught at first slip after setting him up for it. The Proteas were 8/162 and the decision about enforcing the follow-on seemed to be around the corner.

But, from then on in, Maharaj, with a painful right shoulder, and Philander dug in and were more than happy to play dot after dot after dot.

Kohli threw it all at them – fast bowlers reversing the ball, the spinners Ashwin and Jadeja, the fast bowlers with the new ball and even the spinners with new ball – but the duo did not give up an inch.

The duo put on a masterclass in stubborn defending from the tail, and batted 259 deliveries together and put on 109 runs for the ninth wicket.

Maharaj went onto score 72 very important runs off 132 deliveries, where in between he even had to take a medical break because of his painful right shoulder, looked like he would convert the knock into a century before an attempted flick fell straight to Rohit Sharma off Ashwin.

An over later, Ashwin struck again and had Kagiso Rabada lbw as Philander remained unbeaten on 44 off 192 deliveries, with the umpires calling time.

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