South Africa were 6-1 and trailed by 181 runs at the close of day one of the third Test at the Wanderers.
South Africa weren’t at their best on day one. Their bowlers failed to hit the right areas consistently on a pitch that was offering the seam bowlers plenty of assistance, while their fielders failed to make the most of several clear-cut chances.
And yet they were still good enough to dismiss India for 187.
Vernon Philander took a wicket with a no-ball, AB de Villiers put down a regulation catch, while Faf du Plessis erred in not asking for one particular lbw review. On another day, perhaps against another team, they would have been made to pay for their mistakes.
Virat Kohli raised more than a few eyebrows when he opted to bat first on a cloudy day at the Wanderers. The pitch looked a seamer’s dream, and it was no secret that the Proteas hoped to field five pace bowlers in this fixture.
Du Plessis said at the toss that he would have bowled first if he was given the option. He would have been delighted with the performance in the first hour or so, as the Proteas dismissed the India openers Lokesh Rahul and Murali Vijay cheaply.
India were on the backfoot. They showed some fight, with Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara putting on 84 runs for the third wicket.
They benefited from South Africa’s lapses of concentration. Kohli was put down twice, while Pujara benefited when Du Plessis opted against asking for a review when the India No 4 was hit on the pad in front of the stumps.
Then India suffered their own brain explosion with the score on 97-2. Kohli flashed at a Lungi Ngidi delivery, and was well-caught by De Villiers in the slips.
Pujara never looked comfortable, taking 54 balls to get off the mark, and a total of 173 to reach his 50. His departure after tea marked the beginning of the end for the visitors as far as their first innings, and indeed their drive to pressure South Africa via a big total, was concerned.
Andile Phehlukwayo and Morne Morkel combined to remove Pujara, Parthiv Patel and Hardik Pandya in the space of 12 balls. Bhuvneshwar Kumar played positively thereafter to boost India to something resembling a competitive score.
The ball continued to seam off the pitch in the dying stages. Kumar removed Aiden Markram with his ninth delivery to put the pressure on the Proteas.
Dean Elgar and Rabada, the nightwatchman, steered the hosts to the close without further loss. It will be interesting to see how the Proteas approach their innings going forward, and whether the five-prong India pace attack can make the most of these conditions.
India 187 – Virat Kohli 54, Cheteshwar Pujara 50, Kagiso Rabada 3-39, Andile Phehlukwayo 2-25
SA 6-1 – Dean Elgar 4 not out, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 1-3
South Africa trail by 181 runs
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix