Hardik Pandya counter-attacked brilliantly to boost India to 185-7 at tea on day two at Newlands.
Dean Elgar’s dropped catch earlier in the session has cost South Africa dearly. Pandya, the one India batsman who has shown some attacking intent in this innings, was on 15 at the time. As it stands, Pandya will resume on 81 after the tea break, and India will have the opportunity to further reduce the deficit.
The Proteas enjoyed the best possible start to the second session. Vernon Philander – who had persisted with the same impeccable line and length before lunch for zero reward – claimed the key wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara with his very first delivery after the break.
The batsman appeared to be caught in two minds when he pushed forward and then attempted to withdraw the shot. The ball caught the edge of the bat and was safely pouched by Faf du Plessis at second slip.
Philander removed Ravi Ashwin two overs later. On this occasion, wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock was forced to dive like a goalkeeper to his right in order to complete the catch.
Dale Steyn bowled quickly and accurately after lunch, firing the ball in towards the batsmen’s pads and then swinging it back towards the slip cordon. Unfortunately for the Proteas, none of the India batsmen could nick one behind during this period. The hosts thought they had Pandya caught behind on 5, but a review revealed that the ball had hit the pad rather than the bat en route to De Kock.
Then Elgar put Pandya down in the gully. The India all-rounder raced through for a single while Steyn walked back to his mark in disappointment.
The mood changed when Wriddhiman Saha shouldered arms to the very next delivery. The ball was full, quick, and straight, and when the umpire lifted the finger Steyn screamed in elation.
India lost three wickets in that 30-minute period after lunch. Thereafter, Pandya took the fight to the opposition bowlers much like AB de Villiers did on day one. He received good support from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and together they added 93 runs for the eighth wicket.
That dropped catch by Elgar has certainly proved costly. That said, the Proteas are still well placed in this contest. They should be looking to wrap up this innings as soon as possible after the break and take a lead of 80-plus into the second dig.
It remains to be seen if Steyn will add to his wicket-tally. The leader of the Proteas attack needs three more to surpass Shaun Pollock as the most prolific South African Test bowler of all time.
However, Steyn was forced to leave the field at the end of the second session with what appeared to be a foot injury.
SA 286 (1st innings) – AB de Villiers 65, Faf du Plessis 62, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-87, Ravi Ashwin 2-21
India 185-7 (1st innings) – Hardik Pandya 81 not out, Cheteshwar Pujara 26, Vernon Philander 3-33, Dale Steyn 2-51
India trail by 101 runs
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