After wickets fell in heaps in the first Test at Newlands, the pitch at SuperSport Park presented an entirely different proposition as batsmen ruled the roost. South Africa were at 269-6 in their first innings when stumps were called on day one.
Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat first as 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi was handed his Test debut, replacing the injured Dale Steyn. Virat Kohli made three changes as KL Rahul, Parthiv Patel and Ishant Sharma replaced Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar respectively.
Here, we look at the good and bad performances of an opening day which saw a great battle once again between the top two Test sides in the world.
AIDEN MARKRAM’S 94 LEADS SOUTH AFRICAN CHARGE
Markram was bang on the money when he had predicted the Centurion pitch on his home ground to yield a lot more runs than Newlands. The 23-year-old feasted on the good batting conditions on offer with a fluent and aesthetic innings where he was on top of the bowlers from ball one.
The right-handed batsman has had a great start to his Test career and he continued to show that he has a bright future ahead of him with an assured display on Saturday. His drives through mid-on and mid-off regions against the fuller deliveries were a joy to watch while he was equally punishing against the shorter-deliveries.
The opener was looking good for his third Test ton in only his fifth match but fell agonizingly short by six runs after getting caught behind to Ravichandran Ashwin. Nevertheless, his runs at the top set-up an excellent platform for South Africa to push towards a big total.
RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN SPINS INDIA BACK INTO THE GAME
Dean Elgar, after surviving a testing period against Ishant Sharma, had established a strong opening stand along with Markram as India went wicketless in the opening session.
Ashwin found some joy instantly on the Centurion track and put Elgar through some uncomfortable moments before lunch. He had his man straight after lunch as Elgar tried to hit his way out of trouble only to stab a cleverly-flighted delivery to backward point.
Ashwin then removed Markram against the run of play with a delivery that did not turn as much as the South African opener had expected it to. The Indian spin ace then returned during the final overs of the day to dismiss Quinton De Kock for a golden duck with a sharp dipping delivery that took the batsman’s outside edge on its way to Kohli at slip.
While pacers had dominated the opening Test, Ashwin’s vital wickets on Saturday shows the value his spin brings to the Indian side even in overseas conditions.
PARTHIV PATEL DROPPING AMLA PROVES COSTLY
Hashim Amla had been out of knick recently with single digit scores in his last three Test innings. The pressure was on the senior Proteas stalwart when he came out to bat on Saturday and he grinded his way to 30 runs before presenting a chance to Parthiv Patel.
The 34-year-old’s attempted flick towards the leg-side to an Ishant Sharma delivery took a big edge off his bat but Patel failed to collect a relatively straight-forward chance diving to his left to let Amla off the hook.
In the side, only due to an injury to Saha, Patel’s drop proved costly for the visitors as Amla went on to add another 51 runs and was looking good for his 29th Test ton before being run-out.
SOUTH AFRICA LET SLIP ADVANTAGE WITH SHAMBOLIC RUNNING
After the fall of Markram, Amla and du Plessis had formed a solid partnership as it looked like the hosts would end day one for the loss of only two wickets. However, South Africa lost their composure in the final 10 overs of the day as two inexcusable run-outs brought India right back into the game.
First to fall was Amla to a sensational piece of fielding off his own bowling by Hardik Pandya. Du Plessis called immediately for a single after Amla punted the ball towards the short-leg region but Pandya sprinted in and unleashed a direct throw at the non-striker’s end in a single motion to send the batsman on his way.
The second was even more baffling as Vernon Philander‘s attempted flick off a Pandya delivery lobbed into the air between the wicket-keeper and mid-wicket. As the two fielders converged towards the ball, Philander casually kept wandering down the pitch with his eyes fixated towards the action. He failed to pay heed to Du Plessis’ call to send him back and was run-out comfortably as Pandya removed the bails.
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