Pandya dazzles but South Africa in command

Pandya dazzles but South Africa in command

Hardik Pandya underlined the value of a quality pace-bowling all-rounder in the group with the most valuable innings of his fledgling international career yet, saving India the blushes against South Africa – first with the bat and then with the ball.

India, overnight 28/3, were reeling at 92 for seven when Pandya (93, 153m, 95b, 14x4, 1x6) linked up with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25). Against an attack that had bruised and battered the ego of the Indian top-order batsmen, these two held little hope of resurrecting the innings. But as the saying goes, offence is the best form of defence, Pandya produced a counter-attacking innings that steered India to a respectable 209 all out in 73.4 overs.

With a handy cushion of 77 runs, South Africa consolidated their position in the match by finishing the Saturday's second day of the opening Test here at Newlands on 65/2 in 20 overs for an overall lead of 138. Pandya wasn't to be kept away from action on the day, as the right-arm paceman claimed both the openers to keep India in the game. While India's fightback from an abysmal situation was admirable, they will have to pull off something out of the ordinary to make a match of it.      

Indian pacers were impressive no doubt, but the South African quicks displayed a masterclass in fast bowling. If Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel unnerved the Indian batsmen with searing pace and uncomfortable bounce, targeting the rib cage, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander showed there is more to fast bowling than just the pace -- swinging and seaming the Indian batsmen to their doom. All the four pacemen gave the visiting batsmen a solid workout, extracting searing pace and lateral movement.        

Rohit Sharma hung on for long but never once did he look convincing. He was beaten times without number, raising questions over team management's wisdom to pick him over Ajinkya Rahane who has a proved record in these conditions. Cheteshwar Pujara was marginally better but the duo was extremely cautious as India scored a laborious 48 in 25 overs in the first session. The only redeeming factor for India was that they had lost only Rohit, who had been done in by the pace of Rabada and was caught in front. The visitors' innings, however, unraveled rapidly in the post-lunch session as South African bowlers made them hop, jump and skip in the crease.

Philander, Steyn show

Philander lured Pujara and Ashwin on the off-side to their fall while Steyn nicely set Wriddhiman Saha with a few outswingers before slipping in an inswinging delivery. The right-hander offered no shot to a ball that thudded on his pads. He optimistically reviewed the verdict, as had Rohit earlier, and India lost both their reviews by the 45th over.

India would have been in more trouble had Dean Elgar held onto a straight but sharp catch at gully of Pandya who was on 15 then in India's total score of 91/7. The Baroda player made most of the 'life' as he forged a 99-run stand for the eighth wicket with a tenacious Bhuvneshwar, who played 33 balls before opening his account, for company. Bhuvneshwar, who has produced some handy knocks across formats in recent times in lower order, looked more assured than some of the top-order batsmen while Pandya showed he was ready for scrap. The rub of the green went his way but never did he flinch from the challenge in front him. He was hit and beaten but nothing intimidated him. It was a shame that such a fighting knock had to end at the cusp of a century but he knows it's more valuable than his highest Test score of 108 (against Sri Lanka) last year.            

The Indian pacers may have given a good account of themselves by restricting South Africa to 286, but they would have realised the gulf in quality. Though the Indian pacers struck regularly, they also gave away too many boundary balls. That wasn't the case with the hosts, who were relentlessly aggressive and were disciplined without compromising on their pace.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry