The Proteas were 136-3 in pursuit of 241 at tea on day four at the Wanderers.
Few would have given Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla a chance of surviving the first session on day four, especially after the explosive events on day three. Elgar was struck on the head last night, and the officials – after witnessing that incident, as well as several other examples of unpredictable bounce earlier in the day – decided to take the players off the field.
Two sessions into day four, and the complexion of the game has changed. Elgar and Amla have shown remarkable tenacity and application to bat South Africa back into the contest.
Suddenly the hosts are on top. Elgar and Amla put on 119 runs for the second wicket before the latter was brilliantly caught before tea. Thanks to that spirited stand, the hosts find themselves well placed needing 105 runs for victory with seven wickets still in hand.
Fewer deliveries have misbehaved on this pitch over the course of day four. There have been a few instances where Elgar and Amla have been hit on the body, just as they were late on day three. Overall, however, India bowlers have been erratic and the side as a whole has been left wanted for intensity.
They earned some reward, though, when they dismissed Amla shortly before tea. The Proteas No 3 attempted to whip Ishant Sharma through the leg-side for a boundary, but only succeeded in finding Hardki Pandya. Amla scored 52 runs off 140 balls.
Then the new man at the crease failed to adjust to a bouncing delivery. Jasprit Bumrah fired the ball at AB de Villiers, and caught the edge of the bat. Ajinkya Rahane pouched an important catch at gully, and the visitors celebrated wildly.
India did well to claim two big scalps late in the session. They will need to follow that up with another breakthrough after tea, though, to regain control of the game.
The Proteas still have work to do. Elgar, Faf du Plessis, and subsequently Quinton de Kock have to score the bulk of the remaining 105 runs. South Africa can’t afford to leave the all-rounders and bowlers with too much to do late in the day.
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 247 (2nd innings) – Ajinkya Rahane 48, Virat Kohli 41, Kagiso Rabada 3-69, Morne Morkel 2-47
SA 136-3 (2nd innings) – Dean Elgar 61 not out, Hashim Amla 52, Ishant Sharma 1-27, Mohammed Shami 1-18
South Africa need 105 runs to win
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix