Kohli, Rahane propel India

Cricket Fourth Test : Duo hammers half-centuries as hosts take complete command on day three

Kohli, Rahane propel India

South Africa, tormented by their flaky batting performances, have been shored up by their bowling in this series. Time and again, the Proteas’ bowlers have thrown in reminders of their proud Test legacy, their fine performances offering a delightful sight.

The third day of the fourth Test had more such spells on display from the visitors before India captain Virat Kohli and ever-reliable Ajinkya Rahane quelled the early unrest with a resolute century stand.

South Africa’s vigour was exceptional as they took the field on Saturday post India’s decision to not enforce the follow on. Morne Morkel (3-29) stood out with his pace and variation; he left the Indian top-order in tatters at 57/4. And once the leg-spin of Imran Tahir found his range, it was South Africa who were exerting the pressure. This was before Kohli decided to defy the prevailing current and Rahane, with tanks of patience at his disposal, stuck with him.

The two put India back into the position of strength with their 133-run stand for the fifth wicket, the hosts ending the day at 190/4 in their second innings. Their lead has now swelled to 403 runs. Kohli was at 83 (154b, 10x4), 17 short of his 12th Test hundred, and Rahane 52 (152b, 5x4) when stumps were drawn.

The surface had something on offer for everybody. If the bowlers exerted their influence in the morning session, batsmen prospered later in the day. Throughout, a handsome turnout, comprising school children, was treated to a healthy competition between bat and ball.

Morkel led the South African charge in the morning taking two wickets in two balls in the space of an over. The significant aspect of his bowling was the way he altered his length. Known as back-of-length bowler, Morkel bowled fuller here with a probing line and mixed up his deliveries. The Indians felt the discomfort against his sheer pace.

Murali Vijay was caught off-guard by his vicious bouncer that grazed his arm guard and wicket-keeper Dane Vilas pouched a single-handed catch. An upset Vijay repeatedly pointed to his arm-guard before walking off.

Rohit Sharma, promoted to No 3 in place of Cheteshwar Pujara, who was hit on his elbow while fielding on Friday, was undone by a superb delivery from Morkel. Morkel’s fuller length delivery held its line to beat his bat and shatter the stumps for a first ball duck. Sharma’s protracted failure in Tests has continued.

Morkel returned post luncheon break to ruin the birthday of Shikhar Dhawan with an out-of-the-blue, inswinging toe-crusher.

With Morkel testing him on the off-stump, Dhawan was not prepared for this one. The lethal delivery literally made Dhawan dance before uprooting his leg stump.

Two overs later, it was Pujara’s turn to watch in disbelief. This time it was Tahir whose straighter one came at an uncharacteristic pace of 94 kmph and before Pujara could even react, the ball cleared his off-stump. Tahir sprinted around the ground in celebration, customary as well as cathartic.

It was then left to Kohli and Rahane to stop the South African charge. Kohli survived a caught behind off Tahir when on five.

The ball did not touch the bat and Kohli made his disapproval apparent by standing his ground, his hands on hips. He got the reprieve as replays showed it to be a no-ball.

Thereafter, Kohli and Rahane set out to resurrect the innings quite like they did in the first innings. Unhurried, they comfortably grafted before Kohli pushed the pace in the last session. Rahane, the first innings centurion, was happy to play second fiddle as Kohli flourished in the familiarity and comfort of home. Both got their half centuries in the last session, the slowness of pitch and fatigue of the Proteas bowlers working in their favour. With the pitch promising to deteriorate further, the visitors, with a distressing batting record in the series, face a gigantic task in the coming two days.

score board

INDIA (I Innings): 334
SOUTH AFRICA (I Innings): 121
INDIA (II Innings):
Vijay c Vilas b Morkel    3
(15b)
Dhawan b Morkel    21
(86b, 2x4)
Rohit b Morkel    0
(1b)
Pujara b Tahir    28
(79b, 3x4)
Kohli (batting)    83
(154b, 10x4)
Rahane (batting)    52
(152b, 5x4)
Extras (LB 2, NB- 1)    3
Total (for 4 wkts, 81 overs)    190
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Vijay), 2-8 (Rohit Sharma), 3-53 (Dhawan), 4-57 (Pujara).
Bowling: Morne Morkel 17-6-29-3, Kyle Abbott 17-6-38-0, Dane Piedt 18-1-53-0, Imran Tahir 21-4-49-1 (NB-1), Dean Elgar 8-1-19-0.

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