With one foot seemingly already on the plane, South Africa’s batsmen fell to spin again; but this time it was Ravindra Jadeja who did the damage.
Jadeja grabbed the headlines with a five-wicket haul (5-30) which included a devastating spell right after tea, taking three wickets in five overs to rip the heart out of the South African innings and leave them on 62-4.
The Proteas were bowled out for 121, 213 runs behind India’s first innings total of 334 and 14 runs short of avoiding the follow-on. However, India decided not to enforce it and will bat again on day three.
South Africa, 38-1 at tea, needed a good third session on day two but instead they completely collapsed and are now staring another big defeat in the face.
This has been South Africa’s poorest series performance in 10 years and one of their worst batting displays in recent history. There was no fight, no application and no intelligence in shot selection. Mentally, they must be exhausted and the flight back to South Africa can’t come soon enough.
This time no-one can blame the pitch. India deserve all the credit. They have outplayed South Africa, embarrassed them at times, in every Test and if they win this game, as they should do from here, Virat Kohli and his players will move up to No 2 on the ICC’s Test rankings, only three points behind the Proteas.
AB De Villiers (42) has been the exception, but it can’t be always up to him to get South Africa out of a hole. He fell shortly before stumps, caught splendidly on the boundary by Ishant Sharma to become Jadeja’s fifth wicket.
Temba Bavuma looked good in his new role as an opener at the start of the innings, but he was bowled by a Jadeja delivery that kept straight while trying to play off the back foot rather than the front.
Hashim Amla edged a cut shot behind for three from 34 balls before Faf du Plessis went off the rails, hitting a paddle-sweep up in the air for a simple catch by Ajinkya Rahane. It was a perplexing shot to play and resulted in Du Plessis’ third duck of the series.
JP Duminy became Umesh Yadav’s 50th Test scalp, playing inside the line to a delivery that shaped away and uprooted his off-stump. Dane Vilas needed an innings of substance, but he missed a ball swinging into him between bat and pad to clatter into his stumps.
Ashwin got his first wicket of the innings when he trapped Kyle Abbott lbw for four.
Earlier Abbott completed a five-wicket haul shortly after lunch to bowl India out for 334.
India were 326-8 at lunch but Abbott (5-40 in 24.5 overs) took the last two wickets in the space of three balls to get the second five-for of his career.
He had Ashwin (56) caught by De Villiers after the batsman got a top edge to a pull shot and Ishant Sharma was trapped lbw two balls later to wrap up the innings.
India added 103 runs to their overnight score of 231-7, thanks to Rahane’s first century (127) in India and Ashwin’s fifty. Together the pair shared a vital 98-run partnership which has put their team in firm control of proceedings.
South Africa will be kicking themselves for letting India get away from them. At 139-6 at tea on day one India should never have been allowed to add almost 200 runs for the last four wickets.
Credit to Rahane, who was under immense pressure to get his career on home soil going after low scores in the series. He was fortunate to get a second chance after Amla dropped him on 78 on Thursday, a mistake that has proved costly.
South Africa were sloppy in the field during the morning session where every run was vital.
Imran Tahir took the only wicket of the session when Rahane tried to scoop him over cover but only succeeded in finding De Villiers, who took a straightforward catch.
Amla took the second new ball at the start of the day and while the seamers bowled well, the tactics perhaps weren’t aggressive enough.