South Africa’s ability to stay in this match and the series lies firmly on the shoulders of their batting order after day one of the third Test against India in Nagpur.
They lost two wickets before the end of the play for just 11 runs, although the second one was nightwatchman Imran Tahir and not a top-order batsman. Stiaan van Zyl’s struggle in this series continued as he edged one to first slip off Ravi Ashwin for a duck.
Dean Elgar (7) and Hashim Amla (0) will continue on Thursday with their team on 11-2, still 204 behind India’s first innings total of 215.
It is clear that this is not going to be a high scoring match and it will be somewhat of a surprise if the Tests lasts five days.
There is genuine turn in this wicket which is causing the batsmen problems. It’s similar to the surface of the first Test in Mohali, but where the perception of spin led to the downfall of South Africa in that game, there is more real turn here, which makes it extremely difficult to bat on.
How South Africa bat in the rest of this Test will define their series. A lead is crucial, but will be very hard to achieve. They will need at least one big partnership to get close to and hopefully surpass India’s total.
South Africa’s bowlers did very well to dismiss India for 215, although at 125-6 they would have hoped to keep them to a score below 200.
Simon Harmer (4-73) and Morne Morkel (3-35) were the chief destroyers for the visitors after Virat Kohli won the toss and batted first.
India were on the ropes on 125-6, but Ravindra Jadeja (34) and Wriddhiman Saha (32) shared a 48-run partnership to frustrate the visitors. Once they fell, Saha to a superb catch by JP Duminy and Jadeja bowled by Kagiso Rabada, the resistance didn’t last long as Harmer and Imran Tahir took the last two wickets.
Harmer struck first after lunch, trapping Cheteshwar Pujara lbw for 21, thanks to a turning delivery which struck the batsman, who was playing on the back foot, right in front.
Morkel was at his best in his third spell, getting some swing and making the batsmen uncertain whether to play or not by bowling a good length. He bowled Ajinkya Rahane with a beauty for 13, the ball nipping back between bat and pad to leave India on 115-4.
Kohli (22) followed his teammate in Morkel’s next over, moving across his stumps to play at a delivery he should have left to be caught by Dane Vilas behind the stumps.
Harmer got his second wicket before tea when Rohit Sharma was caught by AB de Villiers off the bat and then the pad, for two.
Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan got India off to a good start with a 50-run opening partnership before Dean Elgar caught the latter off his own bowling for 12. Morkel trapped Vijay lbw for 40.
Picture: Associated Press