Aiden Markram fell short of a well-deserved century as South Africa went to tea at 182-2 on day one at Centurion.
South Africa continue to strengthen their grip on this Test match. Thanks to Markram, who powered his way to 94 off 150 balls in the second session, and to a lesser extent Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla, the hosts remain on course for a formidable first-innings total.
India and Ravi Ashwin may have mixed feelings about their performance after lunch. Ashwin battled for consistency, yet still managed to claim two key wickets – that of Elgar 10 minutes into the session, and then that of Markram, just when the latter was starting to dominate the visitors’ attack.
Ashwin made the initial breakthrough 10 minutes after lunch, getting Elgar to lunge forward and push the ball into the eager grasp of Murali Vijay at silly-point. Thereafter, the visitors failed to hit the right areas consistently and the quality of the fielding left a lot to be desired.
Markram attempted to play positively against both seam and spin. After adjusting to the slow and often low-bouncing conditions, the Proteas opener backed himself to put the bad balls away.
By contrast, Amla took 12 balls to get off the mark. The crucial battle between the South Africa No 3 and Ashwin nearly came to an end when Amla whipped the ball towards mid-wicket. Hardik Pandya dived to his left, but didn’t manage to hold onto the catch.
Amla was on 14 at the time. He produced a more convincing display in the second half of the session, and contributed to an important 63-run partnership for the second wicket.
Markram reached a significant milestone when he surpassed the 500 run-mark during this session. At that stage, the 23-year-old appeared on course for a third Test century in only his seventh innings.
Ashwin ended those ambitions when he fired a quicker delivery at the Proteas star. Markram was given out caught behind, and the ensuing review supported the on-field call. For the second time in his short career, Markram has been dismissed in the 90s.
India failed to build on that breakthrough, though, as they missed another important chance toward the end of the session. Amla edged the ball down the leg-side, and wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel did well to get across.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the ball bounced out of the player’s gloves and Amla – then on 30 – survived again.
South Africa should look to pile on the runs in the third session. AB de Villiers appears to be in an aggressive mood and Amla also has the ability to shift gear.
India’s bowlers showed signs of fatigue after lunch, and may be susceptible later on following a long day in the highveld sun. With Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, and Keshav Maharaj still to come, one would expect South Africa to surpass 300 before the close of play.
SA 182-2 (1st innings) – Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 35 not out, Dean Elgar 31, Ravi Ashwin 2-53
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