A dangerous Wanderers pitch and other talking points as India tighten grip on final Test

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Ajinkya Rahane led the way for India with a well-made 48.

The Wanderers pitch was the main talking point of day three of the final Test between India and South Africa as several batsmen copped body blows with the ball rocketing off dangerous cracks.

It was a day however, that belonged to the tourists eventually after a fighting display from their batsmen.

India put in a fine batting performance in their second innings as they were bundled out for 247 runs eventually, handing South Africa a highly tricky second innings chase of 241.

The hosts lost Aiden Markram in reply and had reached 17-1 when play was called off on day three.

We look at the key talking points of a highly eventful day.

VIRAT KOHLI’S MASTERFUL 41

The more the Test progresses, the more the value of Virat Kohli’s fighting 54 in the first innings increases. On Friday, the mandate for the Indian skipper on a hostile pitch was clear – to get his side as close to the 200-run mark as possible.

On a pitch where even the best batsmen in the world have been made to look foolish, Kohli not just survived, but thrived.

Yes, he was beaten by the unpredictable movement every now and then, but whenever a chance presented itself, Kohli was quick to bring out his crisp cover drives. His footwork was sure and he looked like a man in control.

His 41-run knock might seem ordinary on any other pitch but on a rapidly crumbling Wanderers track, it was as good as a ton.

Kohli played a captain's hand on a difficult track.

Kohli played a captain’s hand on a difficult track.

AJINKYA RAHANE SHOWS HIS VALUE

Debates around Ajinkya Rahane’s exclusion from the Indian squad for the first two Tests have been constant. At the Wanderers, Rahane showed us what the fuss was all about with a batting display in which he looked head and shoulders above everybody else.

On a minefield of a pitch, Rahane seemed completely unperturbed as he went about his business with such ease. The right-hander played some crunching drives on the off and on sides as he showed why he has been India’s best overseas batsman over the last two years or so.

His timing was immaculate and rarely was he troubled as he quickly raced away to 48. He was looking good for a well-deserved half century before Quinton de Kock pulled off a stunning catch diving to his left.

Rahane looked in complete control during his 48-run knock.

Rahane looked in complete control during his 48-run knock.

BHUVNESHWAR FRUSTRATES PROTEAS ONCE AGAIN

While he was not picked by Kohli at Centurion, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been a thorn in the flesh of South Africa’s bowlers for much of the series. The pacer’s performances with the bat has put to shame many of the accomplished specialist batsmen in the side.

On Friday, he once again frustrated the Proteas with a 33-run knock. He kept Rahane company and then combined with Mohammed Shami to score some handy lower order runs for the visitors.

He left well when required and attacked whenever he could to swell India’s lead past the 200-run mark. If he keeps this up, he could provide India with another all-round option on overseas pitches.

Bhuvneshwar Kummar is fast developing into a handy all-rounder.

Bhuvneshwar Kummar is fast developing into a handy all-rounder.

DANGEROUS PITCH AND FAF DU PLESSIS’ CONUNDRUM

The Wanderers pitch had shown signs of some alarming signs with uneven bounce on day one itself. By day three, the alarm bells were well and truly ringing as several batsmen found themselves on the the receiving end.

Murali Vijay, Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Rahane all suffered blows at some point to their body as the ball spat up steeply from the various cracks on the pitch. The situation had become so alarming that the umpires consulted among themselves more than once to decide whether the Test should continue.

Both sets of players were called off the pitch ultimately by the umpires when Dean Elgar was struck on the helmet by a Shami bouncer. The match referee called in the two captains for a discussion on the state of the pitch. Meetings carried on for some time but it looks like the match will go ahead on the fourth day for now.

Balls kept exploding off the pitch as batsmen kept suffering body blows.

Balls kept exploding off the pitch as batsmen kept suffering body blows.

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