Kohli stands tall for India

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

Kohli stands tall for India

Virat Kohli swore by the word intent in the run-up to the second Test. And the skipper not just talked the talk but walked the talk as well, stroking his way to an unbeaten 85 (130b, 8x4), but the rest of the Indian batting unit failed to pull the weight behind him as South Africa nosed ahead in the second Test.

What, in fact, could have been an excellent day in office for India ended up being an average one thanks to a combination of ordinary batting and some quality fast bowling from South Africa. While Rohit Sharma, who fell early again, received a peach of a ball that cut him into half after shaping in from just outside off, the remaining four have to blame themselves. Cheteshwar Pujara couldn't even blame it on a poor ball as he ran himself out in a moment of madness.

Kohli, however, hung in there to prevent another collapse as India finished the extended second day at 183 for five in 61 overs, trailing the hosts by 152 runs on first innings here at the SuperSport Park on Sunday. Their position is far from being termed safe but at least they are showing some stomach for fight. Hardik Pandya was giving Kohli the company on an unbeaten 11.  

Having prised out South Africa, overnight 269/6, a few minutes before lunch for 335 in 113.1 overs, Indian openers M Vijay (46) and KL Rahul (10) looked in 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 No 3 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 and rocketed the ball towards stumps at almost zero angle, 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 Kohli responded to the call without sacrificing the scoring rate. The duo took India to break at 80 for two to calm the nerves in the dressing room.  

While Vijay was cautious without being too circumspect, Kohli, who survived an lbw review by South Africa, was off in a style. He never allowed the bowling to get on top of him, picking up boundaries every now and then and constantly rotating the strike. There was no hesitancy in his approach whether he was driving the ball past cover for four or leaving it alone. Vijay, who began positively pulling off some exquisite on-drives off his pads, slowed a touch down before picking the wrong length off Maharaj to cut the left-arm spinner. That ended a fruitful 79-run stand for the third wicket after which India lost two more quick wickets in the form of Rohit and Parhiv Patel, who after a forgettable day behind the stumps, lived a charmed life in front of it. It wasn't long before he became the maiden victim of debutant Ngidi.            

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 Rababa in successive balls off R Ashwin (4/113) while du Plessis remained largely untroubled during his measured 63 (142b, 9x4). 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.

 

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