Despite losing one whole day to rain in the first Test at Centurion, India got themselves in the driver’s seat on the back of a strong bowling performance on day three.
After the visitors were bowled out for 327 on the day three morning, they skittled the hosts for just 197. India resumed their second innings on 16/1 on day 4, having a lead of 146 runs. At the end of the day’s play, India were on top and six wickets away from a historic win.
Here we take a look at how the action unfolded and the biggest talking points from day four of the Centurion Test.
India did not declare early to force a result
The biggest talking point of the day was how long will India bat, and would they declare early considering the weather forecast for the fifth day, where it’s expected to be raining for the most part?
Were the Indian camp contemplating that option, they would’ve needed to give the Proteas a target of over 250 and try to bowl them out inside two sessions. Using Shardul Thakur as the nightwatchman indicated that there’s a possibility India could go for quick runs in an attempt to force a result. However, they batted till they were all out, thus giving South Africa a target of 305 for a win. They ended the day on the right note, picking up four South Africa wickets but will hope that they have enough time with rain around on day five.
India negotiate the first session safely
Playing for the weather can be risky and even if India wanted to go that route, they needed to make sure they don’t collapse in the first session with the ball still being new. KL Rahul and Shardul Thakur started the day watchfully, only punishing the bad balls. They lost their first wicket of the day on the half hour mark, when Kagiso Rabada found the edge of Thakur’s bat.
Rahul, who copped a blow on his hand, lasted 74 balls for his 23. He fell soon after the blow off Lungi Ngidi’s bowling. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli ensured they don’t lose any further wickets with India’s scoreboard reading 79/2 heading into Lunch. It also put the visitors in a position where they could attack in the second session to give South Africa around 45-50 overs in the day with a target of over 320.
Rishabh Pant gives India a boost amidst a flood of wickets
Straightaway after the break, the Indian skipper lost his wicket trying to drive Marco Jansen on the very first ball of the session. Pujara followed him next, getting strangled down the leg for 16. Ajinkya Rahane, who scored some glorious shots in his 23-ball 20, holed out at deep square leg trying to hook Jansen.
India were reduced to 111/6 and the pitch was misbehaving quite a bit. Rishabh Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin added 35 runs for the seventh wicket before Ashwin was a victim of uneven bounce. Pant played some terrific shots in his crucial knock of 34 off 34 before he fell to extra bounce as well.
India exposed their tail on a treacherous deck but fortunately for them, no damage was done. They finished the innings on 174 with a target of 305 for the home side. India scored 95 runs in just 18.2 overs to set up a thrilling fourth Innings. For South Africa, Jansen and Rabada snared four wickets each while Ngidi picked two.
Gutsy Elgar holds an end but India firmly in control
India could not have asked for a better start to their bid for a victory as Mohammed Shami knocked over Aiden Markram in the second over of the innings. Keegan Petersen and Dean Elgar offered some resistance to the relentless bowling attack of India. They batted for 12.4 overs and added 33 runs for the second wicket before Petersen (17) edged a full outswinger by Mohammed Siraj to the keeper.
Rassie van der Dussen joined Elgar in the middle and the duo dugged in deep, denying Indians a wicket for a long time. They played out 22.3 overs for their 40-run stand. Van der Dussen (11) battled for 65 balls but eventually fell victim to an outstanding delivery by Bumrah. A length ball way outside off cut back in sharply and took the top of off stump as the batter shouldered his arms.
Dean Elgar batted with immense grit, playing out 122 balls and remaining unbeaten on 52. And just when it looked like South Africa would survive the day with only three wickets down, Bumrah happened.. Again. This time a searing yorker at 143 kmph that could’ve knocked over any top order batter, let alone a lower order batter Keshav Maharaj, who was sent in as a nightwatchman.
How will the fifth day shape up ?
South Africa finished the day on 94/4, needing 211 runs to win with six wickets in hand. Losing just three top order batters and a nightwatchman in 41 overs on this deck was a monumental effort from the home side.
India would be hoping for at least one session to get a result. The Proteas have an uphill task ahead of them if the rain doesn’t assist. The fifth day could either be very thrilling or very disappointing based on what the weather Gods decide.