Hashim Amla scored a crucial half-century on day two at the Wanderers to keep South Africa’s chances of beating India alive.
Conditions have favoured the fast bowlers across the first two days of this Test as 11 wickets fell on day one, and 10 more on day two.
At this point, it seems likely that the side batting last will be at a disadvantage on a deteriorating track and that the game will conclude inside four days.
South Africa are not out of the contest just yet, though as thanks to the efforts of Amla, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and several others down the order, the Proteas managed to surpass India’s first-innings total by seven runs. Thereafter, Philander fired with the ball to make the breakthrough.
Earlier in the day, India’s seamers managed to harness the swing and movement on offer with Jasprit Bumrah finishing with career-best figures of 5-54, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed both South African openers as well as the dangerous AB de Villiers. Both deserve plaudits for their contributions.
Credit needs to go to the batsmen who performed in spite of the conditions, though. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara fought hard to steer India toward a respectable total on day one, while Kumar played an important cameo down the order.
South Africa followed a similar pattern on day two, with Amla emulating Pujara and featuring in crucial partnerships with Rabada and Philander.
Rabada showed some steel during the initial stages of the day when the ball was spitting off the surface. Amla and Rabada put on 64 runs for the third wicket to resurrect the Proteas innings and ensure that the hosts went into the second session with some momentum.
De Villiers, Faf du Plessis, and Quinton de Kock departed in relatively quick succession after lunch and at that stage, the hosts were in danger of collapsing for 150 which would have handed India a relatively big lead.
Amla worked hard to get on top of the India bowlers over the course of his 121-ball innings. The move to get his front foot forward and across the stumps, and to ultimately negate the late movement of the fuller deliveries, proved largely successful.
Amla found an able partner in Philander, who the Proteas needed to stand up and be counted with the scoreboard reading 125-6. The all-rounder didn’t disappoint, contributing 35 and featuring in a 44-run partnership.
Andile Phehlukwayo and Morne Morkel took the fight to India in the latter stages and that effort ensured that the Proteas went into the third innings of the contest with a seven-run lead.
They needed a breakthrough before the close of play, though and Philander obliged with a ball that caught the edge of Parthiv Patel’s bat. Aiden Markram did the rest, racing forward from his position in the cordon to complete a fantastic diving catch.
The result of this game will be shaped by the events of the first session on day three where India may be looking to set South Africa a target in the region of 200 (at least). As seen by the recent performances of both batting lineups, 200 will take some getting on a deteriorating pitch.
The Proteas have done well to stay in the contest thus far and their chances of securing a third successive victory against India, however, may hinge on their performance with the ball on day three. They have to strike early and prevent India from posting 150 or more.
India 187 (1st innings) – Virat Kohli 54, Cheteshwar Pujara 50, Kagiso Rabada 3-39, Andile Phehlukwayo 2-25
SA 194 (1st innings) – Hashim Amla 61, Vernon Philander 35, Jasprit Bumrah 5-54, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-44
India 49-1 (2nd innings) – Lokesh Rahul 16 not out, Vernon Philander 1-11
India lead by 42 runs
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images