Mohammed Shami claimed three key wickets to reduce the Proteas to 173-5 at lunch on day four.
Last night, Morne Morkel said that 250 would be hard to get batting last on this wicket. At that point, the Proteas were in a strong position at 90-2 and 118 runs in the lead.
One session on, and the Proteas are in a bit of trouble. India have removed AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, and Quniton de Kock. The bounce has been inconsistent, and at this stage a lead of 250 is still a long way off.
The game changed in the space of six overs. Prior to that, the Proteas had looked comfortable. De Villiers appeared to have the measure of the pitch. Elgar had battled his way to 60-odd. The platform was set for a big total.
Then Shami got one ball to bounce steeply off a length. De Villiers, who had played similar deliveries in previous overs down to third man, attempted to guide the ball behind square. The ball found the edge, and Parthiv Patel did the rest. After nearly an hour of play, India had broken the key partnership – ultimately worth 141 runs – and claimed the key scalp of De Villiers.
Elgar failed to push on. The opener gave his wicket away four overs later, when he flicked Sami on the leg-side and was caught in the deep. Lokesh Rahul juggled the ball before completing the catch.
Sami succeeded in finding the edge of De Kock’s bat on four consecutive occasions. The first three bounced wide of the wicketkeeper and fielders and then went to the boundary. The fourth, however, was safely pouched by Patel.
India may well have claimed four wickets in the first session. Faf du Plessis, then on six, pushed Ravi Ashwin down the leg-side. Rahul reacted at leg-gully, but not fast enough. The ball bounced out of his hand, and the Proteas skipper survived.
The visitors will look to remove Du Plessis as soon as possible after lunch. If India dismiss the Proteas for 250 or less, they may fancy their chances of victory.
South Africa’s bowlers may enjoy these conditions, though. Morkel himself may be a force with the variable bounce later in the game.
SA 335 (1st innings) – Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 82, Ravi Ashwin 4-113, Ishant Sharma 3-46
India 307 (1st innings) – Virat Kohli 153, Murali Vijay 46, Morne Morkel 4-60, Vernon Philander 1-46
SA 173-5 (2nd innings) – AB de Villiers 80, Dean Elgar 61, Mohammed Shami 3-38, Jasprit Bumrah 2-47
South Africa lead by 201 runs
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix