Kohli stands tall for India

Kohli stands tall for India

Skipper slams unbeaten 85 but South Africa stay ahead after day 2

Kohli stands tall for India

What could have been an excellent day in office for India ended up being an average one thanks KL Rahul’s dismissal to a nothing shot and Cheteshwar Pujara’s moment of madness.

Having prised out South Africa, overnight 269/6, a few minutes before lunch for 335 in 113.1 overs, Indian openers M Vijay and Rahul looked in absolute control of things before the latter played Morne Morkel back to him, offering a return catch against the run of play. Pujara made it two wickets in two balls by running for a non-existent single after facing his first ball.

The right-hander pushed Morkel straight to Lungi Ngidi at mid-on and set off for a cheeky single. Vijay was hesitant but responded nevertheless even as Pujara kept charging towards non-striker’s end. Ngidi picked up the ball and fired the ball in one action, the throw was accurate and Pujara was at least two yards short of his safety line.

This was the opening South Africa were looking for after managing a total less than they would have envisaged at the end of second session of first day’s play. India needed to avoid a collapse of the sorts they had suffered in Cape Town and Vijay and skipper Virat Kohli responded to the call without sacrificing the scoring rate. At tea on the second day of the second Test here on Sunday, India had moved to 80 for two in 28 overs with Vijay (31 n.o.) and Kohli (39 n.o.) raising a 52-run partnership for the third wicket. India now trail South Africa by 255 runs on first innings.

While Vijay was cautious without being too circumspect, Kohli was off in a style. He had understood the mistake of being too defensive in the first Test and played with “intent” that he has been speaking about in the run-up to this match.               

Earlier, Sloppy catching and a solid Faf du Plessis threatened to check India’s progress on the morning session but Ishant Sharma (3/46) struck twice to keep South Africa’s innings under 350. India spilled two catches of Kagiso Rababa in successive balls off R Ashwin (4/113) while du Plessis remained largely untroubled during his measured 63 (142b, 9x4) to help South Africa get close to 350 runs.

Off-spinner Ashwin and Mohammad Shami bowled beautifully in the morning with the latter getting the reward in the shape of overnight batsman Keshav Maharaj who was constantly tested with teasing line just outside off-stump. This was the line that was missing from Shami’s effort on the opening day, especially in the first spell.

India wasted their second review earlier in the day, reviewing a not out lbw shout against Maharaja. The ball was missing the top of the stump by at least three inches and India’s decision to review beggared belief.

India could have made further inroads following Maharaj’s dismissal but Kohli dropped Rabada off Ashwin at slip, only managing get his right-palm under the ball but unable to hold on to it. The catch was right up dropped batsman Ajinkya Rahane’s alley. The next ball, Rabada tried to slash over point only to manage top-edge. Pandya could have easily taken the catch but Shami, for some strange reason, ran across him to disturb the fielder. Pandya’s angry reaction said it all.

The misses, however, didn’t prove too costly for India as Ishant removed both Rabada and du Plessis, bowled by an inswinging fuller ball, to hasten the end. Notwithstanding their clumsy fielding efforts and the disadvantage of bowling first on this surface, India should be happy with their effort.

Brief scores: South Africa (O/n: 269/6): 335 all out in 113.5 overs (Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 82, Faf du Plessis 63; R Ashwin 4-113, Ishant Sharma 3-46) vs India: 80/2 in 28 overs (M Vijay 31 n.o., Virat Kohli 39 n.o.).