But it is picking the wickets that count on the scoreboard and that is where the visitors let the game drift and South Africa strengthened their hold on the game after reeling at 12/3 in the opening hour of the match.
The result at the end of day's play was South Africa sitting pretty on 286 in the first innings and India reeling at 28/3 after 11 overs with Cheteshwar Pujara (5) and Rohit Sharma (0) at the crease. The visitors still trail South Africa by 258 runs with seven wickets in hand and if the groundsmen are to be believed, the pace and carry will only get better on the second day. This clearly means that India have their task cut-out come Saturday.
Murali Vijay's (1) dismissal showed how the senior campaigner committed the cardinal sin of flaying outside the off-stump. With the ball from Vernon Philander pitching just outside off, Vijay went for the flashy drive and the ball went straight to Dean Elgar at gully.
Dale Steyn then got Shikhar Dhawan for just 16 as the latter tried to pull one off the tearaway pacer and only managed to top-edge it for Steyn to wait at the bowling crease and complete the easiest of catches he has ever got in international cricket. The score read 18/2.
Virat Kohli showed he has still not learnt from his horror run in England as he edged Morne Morkel to Quinton de Kock to go back for 5. That very line outside the off-stump that the Englishmen kept feeding Kohli has done the trick again in Newlands.
The old adage goes that morning shows the day. But unfortunately for the Indians that was definitely not the case. With South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis winning the toss and deciding to bat, it looked like the Indians were in for a toil. But Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked three wickets in quick succession to have the South Africans reeling at 12/3 after just 4.5 overs with Dean Elgar (0), Aiden Markram (5) and former skipper Hashim Amla (3) falling prey to the seam movement of Bhuvneshwar.
While Elgar and Amla edged to Wriddhiman Saha behind the wicket, Markram failed to get the bat down in time to stop one swinging in after pitching and thudding into is pads. The umpire had no hesitation in lifting the finger and sending the opener back. The packed crowd at Newlands wore a sombre look as Kohli kept pumping his fist.
But what the Indians seemed to have forgotten was the presence of two of the hosts’ best performers with bat in recent years – Faf and AB de Villiers. The two combined beautifully even as the Indian bowlers kept missing the edge of the batsmen. They showed excellent commitment and discipline in their approach in the first hour – a must in the longest format of the game. Even though they hardly middledanything with Bhuvneshwar and Mohammed Shami bowling a tight line, they refused to surrender.
The two stitched a 95-run partnership as the hosts went into lunch with the score on a dicey 107/3. The game could still go anywhere and the Indians had sniffed blood. Even though ABD had scored his 41st Test fifty, he still looked very cautious in his approach with the ball moving around. Faf was unbeaten on 37 at the break.
Coming back after the break, the Indians finally ended the 114-run partnership with debutant Jasprit Bumrah picking his first wicket. He got the ball to come in with the angle and the ball took the inside edge of de Villiers’s (65) bat as the Indians celebrated. Even though Faf continued his progress to notch up his 16th Test fifty, he was also dismissed against the run of play at 62. This after he was given a reprieve off the previous ball as the Hardik Pandya delivery hit his pad, but the review showed the ball hitting the bails and the umpire’s call saw the Proteas skipper get another life. But with Faf inside edging the very next ball to Saha behind the wicket, India’s joy knew no bounds.
The score read 142/5 as an over-excited Kohli was asked by the umpire to calm down and not cross the line. Kohli though reasoned with the umpire and said he was only celebrating the dismissal. With the Indians having sniffed blood, one would have expected them to go for the kill and finish things off below the 20-run mark. But the Indians let things drift.
While Quinton de Kock scored 43, Vernon Philander – dropped by Shikhar Dhawan on 20 – scored 23, KeshavMaharaj hit a useful 35, Kagiso Rabada scored 26 and a new-look Dale Steyn hit 16. His shuffle at the crease wore the resemblance of Australia skipper Steve Smith. Finally it was R Ashwin who dismissed Morne Morkel (2) -- caught plumb in front – for the South African innings to come to an end on 286.
Bhuvneshwar finished with figures of 4/87 (missing out on a well-deserved five-for), Shami had figures of 1/47, Bumrahfinished with 1/73, Pandya had a tally of 1/53 while Ashwinpicked two wickets giving away 21 runs from his 7.1 overs.
First Published: January 6, 2018, 8:15 AM IST