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India vs South Africa: De Villiers Takes Leaf Out of Centurion Virat Kohli's Book to Put Proteas on Top

At stumps, with bad light ending play early, South Africa’s score read 90/2 with the hosts leading by 118 runs with 8 wickets in the bag. De Villiers is batting on 50 and Dean Elgar on 36.

Baidurjo Bhose |Cricketnext |January 16, 2018, 8:29 AM IST
India vs South Africa: De Villiers Takes Leaf Out of Centurion Virat Kohli's Book to Put Proteas on Top

Centurion: The way momentum has swung in the second Test between India and South Africa at the SuperSport Park in Centurion, it could well give the pendulum a run for its money. And at the end of the third day’s play, it was clearly the home team on top after AB de Villiers showed once again why he is considered one of the best batsman in the business.

Taking a leaf out of good friend and opposition captain Kohli’s book - the run-machine scored his 21st Test century – de Villiers showed intent and application to hand Proteas the edge after Kohli continued from where he left on the second evening to score a magnificent 153.

He is yet to reach the three-figure mark, but bad light, overcast conditions and a quality spell in tandem from Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah on a wicket with variable bounce was enough to make de Villiers' innings worth its weight in gold.

At stumps, with bad light ending play early, South Africa’s score read 90/2 with the hosts leading by 118 runs with 8 wickets in the bag. De Villiers is batting on 50 and Dean Elgar on 36.

It is the uncharacteristic Centurion wicket that makes the lead look bigger than it is as the ball has already started to keep low and that accounted for Aiden Markram (1) as Jasprit Bumrah got one to nip in sharply from one of the cracks and had the opener caught plumb in front. With the score on 1/1, Hashim Amla joined Dean Elgar in the middle, but Amla too fell for just 1 as Bumrah picked his second. The score read 3/2 as de Villiers joined Elgar and from there on, it was the show of a master at work.

But before AB could steal the heart of cricket lovers with his show, it was Kohli who stole the thunder. Leading from the front on a wicket which was certainly two paced and keeping low at times, Kohli played every ball on its merit from the word go. With Hardik Pandya (15) running himself out by not grounding the bat after calling for a non-existent single, it was left on Kohli and the last lower-order bat R Ashwin to stitch together a partnership as India still trailed the hosts by 126 runs when the off-spinner came onto bat.

Ashwin deserves credit for not only holding one end up, but for also playing some attacking shots even as the South African players aimed at his body to unsettle him. A knock on his left glove from Kagiso Rabada wasn’t going to deter him as he went on to play three crisp drives off Rabada soon after. While the first one went to the left of the covers fielder, the second was a backfoot punch to the right of the covers fielder and the third one a square drive. Ashwin’s innings helped Kohli also hold his own as he felt no added pressure.

With Kohli having already crossed the three-figure mark, the India captain now looked at taking the team closer to South Africa’s first innings score of 335 and the partnership looked to be blooming when the second new ball did the trick for Faf du Plessis. With 80 overs gone, the new ball was due and he immediately took it.

Pacer Vernon Philander answered his skipper’s call by dismissing Ashwin for 38 as du Plessis took a brilliant catch at second slip. The ball moved away after pitching and Ashwin flashed at it, only for the ball to land into the palms of the South Africa skipper. Mohammed Shami was brought in ahead of Ishant Sharma to wield the willow, but he was dismissed by Morkel for 1 and it was left to Ishant to help Kohli take India past the 300-run mark.

This is where Kohli’s leadership skill came to the fore once again as apart from shielding Ishant from the pacers, he also kept applauding the tailender every time he defended a bouncer or played out a yorker. The team went into the lunch break with the score reading 287/8, still trailing by 48 runs. Kohli brought up his 150 with a pull to the mid-wicket boundary and a sedate celebration followed as he kissed his India badge on the helmet and the locket he wears.

But Ishant’s stay ended soon after as he fended one off Morkel straight to Markram at forward short leg. But his 20-ball stay ensured that India had come to touching distance of the South Africa score. Kohli departed soon after as he looked to take the attack to the Proteas bowlers with just Bumrah for company and in the end, India were all out for 307, trailing by 28.

But another show of quality batsmanship was on the cards for the sparse crowd at the SuperSport Park on the Monday afternoon. With the Indian pacers bowling a much more disciplined line and the ball also starting to reverse, apart from Ashwin getting turn and bounce, it was important for the South Africans to get a partnership going and this is where de Villiers stood up and got counted. With Elgar for company, he showed patience to grind it out as the wicket started to get more and more difficult for batting.

The one-hour rain break ensured that the conditions further supported the Indian bowlers, but there was no breaking through the defence of AB. He continued to wait for the bad balls to score off and dug out the good ones as Elgar played the perfect second fiddle. Even though Parthiv Patel did not go for a keeper's catch as Elgar edged Bumrah, much to Kohli's dismay, the opener looked solid otherwise. The wet ball did keep Ashwin out of the attack, but that cannot take anything away from de Villiers’s knock.

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