Philander and Rabada put South Africa on brink of victory

Cricket





India 209 and 82 for 7 (Ashwin 1*, Philander 3-22, Rabada 2-30) need another 126 runs to beat South Africa 286 and 130 (Shami 3-28, Bumrah 3-39)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details (Viewers in the Indian subcontinent can watch highlights of the Test here)

For a half hour or so, the South African pace attack looked… unremarkable. Without Dale Steyn – out of the series with a heel injury – the other three had a difficult task summoning their usual menace. Then came an inswinger. It only decided to be one after travelling three-fourth the distance down the pitch. It fooled Virat Kohli. And it broke India. They went to tea 82 for 7. The 126 runs they still need for victory may as well be a taunt rather than a target.

Batting at Newlands on Monday was not a fun proposition. Fifteen wickets fell in only two sessions of play and there were plenty of unplayable deliveries. The opener M Vijay faced a couple of them and was given out both times by the on-field umpire only for DRS to come to his aid. The visitors’ dressing room, with the score 28 for 0 in seven overs, was a happy place.

Morne Morkel did not like that. Given the new ball on a pitch that has been brilliant for fast bowling, he bounced Shikhar Dhawan out and then had Cheteshwar Pujara caught behind with a rip-snorter that the batsman had no choice but to play. India were in the mire and in walked their captain.

Kohli’s stay at the crease was purposeful. He half seemed in one-day mode, turning dots into ones and ones into twos. He knew India wouldn’t get too many opportunities to score and so he tried to give himself a leg up – literally. In the hour that he was out there, he made a conscious effort to thrust his front foot down the pitch and in his eagerness to do so, it often slid too far across on off stump. One of his leg glances was played right around his pad. South Africa sensed an opportunity. Philander converted it brilliantly.

That wicket was like a shot of adrenaline to South Africa. Kagiso Rabada came charging in next over and roughed up Rohit Sharma with a ferocious bouncer. The batsman was beaten for pace and would have been out if not for a bit of casual fielding at the long leg boundary by Keshav Maharaj – he did not have his shades on and the sun blinded him from even putting a hand on the catch. If India read anything into that moment of fortune, Philander got rid of Rohit five balls later, a loose push away from the body forced an inside edge to crash into his stumps.

Hardik Pandya was caught at gully – the same position he was dropped at in the first innings – for 1 with AB de Villiers securing a fine catch and indulging in a loud send-off. South Africa made no pretense that they have a score to settle with India off the field. On it, they were absolutely relentless.

To think they day had begun with them on the back foot, losing eight wickets for only 65 runs.

Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were in charge of the entertainment. And their success was in no small part down to a stage that appeared tailor-made for them: a pitch that made good-length deliveries behave like bouncers.

The most vicious one was reserved for the opposition captain. Faf du Plessis did not do much wrong in deciding to press forward to a delivery that under normal circumstances would have come up about waist-high. But in Cape Town, on a surface that spent an entire day under the covers, something crazy happened. The ball banged into the deck, it trampolined up to take the top glove even as the batsman recoiled from the line of fire, and settled in the wicketkeeper’s waiting gloves.

Wriddhiman Saha was the busiest man in the morning and ended up with a shiny new record against his name: the most catches taken by an Indian in a Test match.

While the rest of the South African line-up came away grumbling, AB de Villiers was unperturbed. He had so much time to get in position even against awkwardly-rising deliveries. So what chance did bad balls have? Even the marginal ones. He hit a flick through midwicket for four that bowlers might petition to be taken out of the game. As well as de Villiers played, though, he could only influence proceedings from one end. It wasn’t until Keshav Maharaj strode into the middle that he had a partner who could hang around. The eighth wicket put on 27 runs at 5.4 per over, ensuring the lead nudged above 200.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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