It was a long day of Test cricket that belonged more to South Africa and Rishabh Pant . The dashing Delhi wicket-keeper batter smashed a stunning hundred to help India get to a lead of 211 but it was the South African pace attack that took the honours. They kept India down to a below-par score once again and hogged the headlines.
Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen then drove home the advantage to leave the hosts 101/2. The Indian bowlers were very good and kept asking questions but weren’t rewarded enough. But after the Elgar-DRS controversy, they lost the plot and the pair of Elgar and Petersen made merry. However, Elgar’s dismissal at the fag end of the day might just spur the Indians up as we await a riveting final day’s play.
South Africa are 111 runs away while India need eight wickets. The game is superbly poised but the Proteas have their noses in front.
Here are the talking points of the day:
Rishabh Pant blazes his way to a splendid ton
India lost the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the first two overs of the day. At 58/4, they were in deep trouble and another wicket would’ve left them reeling with skipper Virat Kohli at the other end. However, Rishabh Pant walked in and batted beautifully.
The Delhi wicket-keeper counter-attacked and counter-punched and literally carried the Indian batting line-up in this second innings. While Kohli was solid and stoic at one end, Pant blazed away and batted in his own style to keep the scoreboard ticking. He did all the scoring and got to his half-century off the 58th ball.
Pant attacked the seamers and picked his shots and spots perfectly. And once Keshav Maharaj came into the attack, the left-hander was severe and he smashed the left-arm spinner for three sixes on either side of the lunch break. In the second session, India lost wickets at regular intervals but Pant batted on and scored a stunning hundred, becoming the first Indian wicket-keeper to score a hundred in England, Australia and South Africa each.
Pant remained unbeaten on 100 as India were bowled out for 198. He was literally a one-man army in terms of scoring in this second essay for India.
South African fast bowlers once again shine
At the start of Day 3, India were definitely ahead as their lead had reached 70 with just two wickets down. However, the South African pace attack was once again right on the money from the get-go. They troubled all the Indian batters and made in-roads consistently to bowl India out for a mere 198.
It was Marco Jansen who got the first breakthrough of the day as he had Cheteshwar Pujara fending to leg-slip where Keegan Petersen took a splendid catch, diving to his right. In the very next over, Kagiso Rabada dismissed Ajinkya Rahane with a snorter. India were reeling at 58/4 before Pant and Kohli rescued them with a 94-run stand.
But Lungi Ngidi bowled a fantastic spell post Lunch and picked up three wickets in a short span. The 25-year-old pacer had Kohli edging to second slip before he got rid of Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur to leave India in tatters. Jansen and Rabada came back to wrap things up. Ngidi finished with three and so did Rabada. Jansen had four to his name.
The Dean Elgar-DRS controversy
India got a relatively early breakthrough as Aiden Markram edged one to the cordon off Mohammed Shami in the eighth over of the second innings. Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen began rebuilding and were looking solid in the middle. There were quite a few plays and misses but the rub of the green continued going South Africa’s way.
Ravichandran Ashwin was brought into the attack relatively early this time around. He bowled a couple of good overs and found a bit of turn and bounce as well. In his third over, Ashwin rapped Elgar on the pads and umpire Marais Erasmus raised the finger as well. Elgar reviewed it and front-on replays suggested that it seemed plumb as the ball hit low on Elgar’s front pad. However, hawk-eye showed the ball to be going over the stumps which forced the umpire to reverse his decision.
The Indian team was visibly frustrated and didn’t hide their emotions. Kohli kicked the ground in disgust and had a lot to say. “Focus on your team as well when they shine the ball.. and not just the opposition, trying to catch people all the time. Well done DRS! Certainly conducting a fair game here DRS,” Kohli said on the stump-mic. Ashwin wasn’t amused either as he said, “You should surely find better ways to win Supersport.” KL Rahul expressed, “Whole country playing against XI guys.” In fact, umpire Erasmus was very surprised with the replay as well and was heard saying, “that is impossible.”
The Indian fielders had a lot to say even post the incident and kept chirping away. They didn’t hide their disappointment but they also let things drift towards the end.
Keegan Petersen and Dean Elgar put South Africa in the driver’s seat
South Africa lost Markram in the eighth over of the second innings and the score read 23/1. Another wicket would’ve put some serious pressure on the middle-order. However, skipper Dean Elgar and the impressive Keegan Petersen put on a solid 78-run stand to keep the hosts ahead at the end of Day 3.
There were plenty of plays and misses alongside a few edges falling short and the DRS controversy as well. But the duo weathered everything and kept the scoreboard ticking. They pounced on anything too full or short and Petersen, in particular, didn’t allow the pressure to build. Elgar batted stoically for 96 deliveries and scored 30 before he was dismissed in what was the final ball of the day.
Petersen is still unbeaten on 48. He has been highly impressive throughout this series and looks set to score his third half-century in the last four innings. He has scored seven boundaries and hasn’t allowed the Indian bowlers to settle. He was severe against Ashwin and was equally up to the task against the Indian pace attack.