SA in control despite late strikes

SA in control despite late strikes

The twin successes late in the second session before tea, provided a little twist in the tale that appeared headed in only one direction and that is South Africa's way.

Ishant Sharma had bowled beautifully in the morning session – hasn't it been the story of his career? – without any commensurate reward. In his 10th over and innings' 53, he had Hashim Amla (52) edge one to first slip but it fell short of a diving Cheteshwar Pujara. The next ball was full and on middle and leg that invited a flick from Amla but Hardik Pandya was positioned correctly at mid-wicket to pouch the offer out of thin air.

The Indians, all gung-ho on Friday, were more relieved than elated at the hard-earned wicket. By the time he departed, though, Amla had brought South Africa more towards their target of 241 than they looked like achieving it on the third day when the ball was doing so much. Along with Dean Elgar, who too ground it out displaying plenty of grit and guts, Amla had raised 119 runs.

He was given a rousing send-off by a sizeable Wanderers crowd which he gave an even louder welcome as another batsman of equal class – AB de Villiers -- walked out to the middle.

Suddenly, the pitch seemed to have regained its spitefulness and the batsmen began to poke and miss, fend or duck at awkwardly bouncing deliveries. One such delivery from Jasprit Bumrah consumed de Villiers who edged to Ajinkya Rahane at gully after the back-of-a-length ball kicked up more than he expected and flew off the shoulder of his bat.

Two wickets in quick succession brought India right back into the game as South Africa left for fourth day's tea at 136 for three in 57 overs, needing another 105 runs to deny India a rare win. Elgar (61 n.o.) was fighting it out in the middle and his presence will be crucial for the hosts.

Sometimes, a Test match can be absorbing without many runs being scored and without any wickets being taken.

The first session went South Africa's way with both Amla and Elgar keeping India at bay. The South African batsmen -- who were all at sea on a difficult pitch on Friday, forcing an early call-off of the day – negotiated the Indian attack effectively but run-making wasn't easy. Elgar, who was struck three times on Friday, handled the pacers more proficiently while Amla looked in usual control.

The awkward bounce that made batsmen from either side hop, skip and jump at the crease and risk getting seriously hurt, was conspicuous by its absence but batting wasn't still easy. The ball still seamed and overcast conditions aided some swing and batsmen had to show great application to come through the session that started an hour behind schedule due to morning showers. The use of the heavy roller before the start of day's play and the cloud cover seemed to have made batting conditions a lot easier.

Brief scores: India: 187 all out and 247 all out vs South Africa: 194 all out and 136/3 in 57 overs.

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