• Proteas staring down the barrel

    At the close of play on Friday, 22 wickets had fallen in two days, making it highly unlikely that the first Test will last five.

    India are in the pound seats on 125-2, a lead of 142 with three days of cricket left. What will be a worry for South Africa is the fact that they struggled to bother the Indian batsmen too much in the final session on Friday, despite bowling on a spinners paradise.

    Only two days have been played, but it is not premature to suggest it will take something special from the Proteas to win the game from here.

    The feeling is that setting South Africa a target of 250 plus will be too big an ask to chase on this wicket.

    India will look to at least bat out day three, which should give them a lead in the region of 350.

    The home side again started poorly in their second innings, losing Shikhar Dhawan for his second duck of the match after he nicked one to AB de Villiers at second slip off Vernon Philander.

    Murali Vijay (47) and Cheteshwar Pujara (63 not out) eased into the innings after that and seldom got themselves in trouble. They shared a 86-run partnership for the second wicket and the only real chance for South Africa came when India were 53-1.

    Pujara edged one behind off Simon Harmer, but the speed of the ball off the bat was too quick for Dane Vilas and he couldn’t hold on. It was a difficult chance, but a big one and in these situations it’s those opportunities that you have to take, especially on this level.

    Imran Tahir got the wicket of Vijay who was brilliantly caught by Temba Bavuma at short leg. However, Tahir still doesn’t look a convincing Test bowler and will need to do better if he wants to keep his career in the longest format alive.

    Dale Steyn didn’t take the field after the innings break and instead watched proceedings from the dressing room with a suspected groin strain. Simon Harmer opened the bowling with Philander and Kagiso Rabada only came on for the first time after 19 overs.

    The debutant bowled well, his first four overs all maidens, but no-one really threatened the Indian batsmen consistently with the spinners also struggling to exploit the conditions.

    South Africa were bowled out for 184, 17 runs behind India’s first innings total of 201. Dean Elgar (37), Hashim Amla (43) and De Villiers (63) were the only batsmen to get double figures and the fact that the latter two are the only batsmen who have played more than one Test in India showed.

    R Ashwin was India’s main destroyer, claiming figures of 5-51 to give India a slim first innings lead of 17 runs.

    De Villiers shared a 29-run partnership with Vernon Philander, who was caught in the slips off what seemed on the replays like a no-ball.

    Simon Harmer hanged around for a while, scoring 34 runs with De Villiers before being trapped lbw by Mishra.

    South Africa struggled to cope with the spin bowling of Ashwin, losing three wickets in the morning session to leave them on 127-5 at lunch.

    Elgar and Amla started the day well enough, surviving the first hour.

    They were perhaps aided by Virat Kohli’s strange decision to not use Ashwin, instead starting the day with leg-spinner Amit Mishra and seamer Umesh Yadav. When Ashwin eventually came on it didn’t take him long to cause the batsmen some problems.

    Elgar and Amla shared a crucial 76-run partnership, but Elgar went for an ambitious shot to be caught at backward point. Amla was then given out stumped by a ball which bounced off wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha’s chest and on to the stumps.

    Ashwin struck again four balls later in the same over when Dane Vilas, in his first Test innings, got a top edge while trying to sweep through the line having scored just one.

    Picture: BCCI