Skipper Kohli backed his bold decision by scoring his 16th Test fifty, but apart from the partnership of 84 between Pujara and Kohli for the third wicket -- the highest of the series so far -- there was nothing much to write home about as far as the Indian batting was considered. Even after a brilliant show by the two, lack of support from the others ensured that the Indian innings folded up for 187 with Kagiso Rabada finishing with figures of 3/39. Vernon Philander (2/31), Morne Morkel (2/47), Andile Phehlukwayo (2/25) and Lungi Ngidi (1/27) played the supporting role to Rabada with precision.
Coming out to bat, South Africa too started poorly as they lost Aiden Markram (2) to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who produced the perfect edge for Parthiv Patel to do the needful behind the wickets. At stumps, South Africa were placed at 6 for one with Dean Elgar (4) and Kagiso Rabada (0) at the crease. The hosts still trail India by 181 runs.
It had rained till 6am and the overcast conditions suggested that winning the toss would mean bowling first, especially when you have five fast bowlers in the team. Kohli had brought back Bhuvneshwar Kumar instead of R Ashwin. But the history at the Wanderers suggests that the wicket only gets faster on the second and third day and it is best to bat first when you win the toss. Yet, the question on everyone’s mind when Kohli decided to bat was whether you throw yourself into the fire to avoid the frying pan?
The openers clearly did not seem to agree with the captain’s decision and while KL Rahul (0) was back in the hut in the fourth over itself, caught by Quinton de Kock off Vernon Philander, Murali Vijay (8) left in the 9th over as Kagiso Rabada pitched one right in the zone of the drive and got the ball to move away, taking the edge of the bat for Quinton to finish formalities.
With the score on 13/2, Kohli came in to join Pujara who was yet to open his account and thus started a partnership that saw the duo frustrate the Proteas pacers even though they kept bowling a testing line. While Kohli looked to attack the bad deliveries and hit a few crisp drives, he also got a life in 11 when Philander dropped a dolly running in at covers off Rabada. But it is all about making the most of the opportunities got.
On the other side, it was a No.3 who was keen to show he belonged after falling cheaply in the first two Test matches. Pujara was so intent in making it count that he scored his first run off the 54th ball that he faced, producing a cheer from the sparse crowd present at the stadium on a Wednesday morning. The two took India to lunch on 45/2 with Kohli on 25 and Pujara on 5. Interestingly, Kohli got another life soon after the break as this time AB de Villiers dropped him on 32 off Morne Morkel. The skipper followed this up with some brisk shots to bring up a determined fifty.
But the celebrations stopped soon after as Lungi Ngidi got the edge of the India skipper, only for de Villiers to hold on this time at slips. With Kohli (54) back in the hut, it was time for Test deputy Ajinkya Rahane to make an impact, having sat out the first two Tests. Even though Rahane did get a reprieve on 3 as Philander dismissed him off a no-ball, the batsman couldn’t make much of it as Morkel had him LBW for 9. The decision looked a bit unfair as the review said the ball was kissing the leg stump and the on-field umpire’s decision stood.
Pujara then found a partner in Parthiv Patel and the two took India to tea on 114/4. With Pujara showing great resilience and patience, it was important for Parthiv to hold one end up. And the two started well with Parthiv happily playing time while Pujara played some aggressive shots as he looked settled in the middle. But the partnership ended soon after Pujara brought up his fifty. Andile Phehlukwayo broke through as he got the ball to kiss the edge of Pujara’s (50) bat for Quinton to pick his third catch of the innings.
With the score on 144/5, Hardik Pandya joined Parthiv and India lost two wickets on the same score as Parthiv went first for 2 as a slash off a wide Morkel delivery landed straight into Quinton’s gloves. And Pandya (0) showed that he lacks the game sense and played a wild pull for Quinton to run back and pick a smart catch – his fifth of the innings. After that, it was all about delaying the end for the Indian tail as Bhuvneshwar Kumar played a handy knock of 30 as the innings ended in the 77th over.
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First Published: January 25, 2018, 7:50 AM IST