South Africa three strikes from victory

Author : Wisden 8 Jan, 2018

Chasing 208, India were struggling on 82 for 7 against South Africa at tea on the fourth day of first Test at Newlands in Cape Town on Monday (January 8).

On a topsy-turvy day, India first stormed into the game by bundling out South Africa for 130 in the second innings, but their happiness proved to be short-lived as their batsmen failed to cash in on the opportunity.

Vernon Philander showed why he is such a dangerous bowler in these conditions and almost provided South Africa with a dream start when he trapped M Vijay in front with an inswinger. The batsman went for the review and much to India’s relief, the replays showed that the ball would have gone over the stumps.

Four overs later, Vijay skipped down the track to put Philander off his length, only to get beaten outside off. There was some noise as the ball went past the bat and the umpire didn’t hesitate in giving the batsman out. Once again, the review came to Vijay’s rescue.

It was eventually Morne Morkel who broke through when he got Shikhar Dhawan fending at a short delivery and Chris Morris, the substitute fielder, made no mistake in gully.

Philander finally got his man when he forced Vijay to edge one to AB de Villiers in the slip cordon, leaving India on 30 for 2, which soon became 39 for 3 when Morkel got Cheteshwar Pujara caught behind with a jaffa.

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma tried to hold the innings together, putting together 32 runs for the fourth wicket.

When it looked like the momentum was shifting towards the visitors, Faf du Plessis brought Philander back into the attack. The big man didn’t disappoint his captain, dismissing Kohli leg before wicket for 28.

Rohit had a stroke of luck in the next over when he failed to control a pull off Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj grassed an easy chance at deep square leg. But Rohit failed to capitalise on it, chopping one from Philander onto his stumps.

Rabada then dismissed Hardik Pandya, the hero of the first innings, for one. He got rid of Wridhimann Saha on the last ball before tea to take his side closer to victory.

Earlier, resuming the day on 65 for 2, ahead by 142, South Africa didn’t have a great start as Mohammed Shami got rid of Hashim Amla in just the second over of the day, courtesy a low catch by Rohit at gully.

Soon after, Shami accounted for Rabada, the nightwatchman, as well, who edged a shortish delivery to Kohli at second slip.

Bumrah then got into the act to snare du Plessis with an absolute brute of a delivery for a duck, the South African skipper only gloving the lifter to Saha.

Things turned worse for the hosts with Bumrah striking in his next over too. Looking to drive on the up, Quinton de Kock could only manage an inside edge to the wicketkeeper for eight.

Amidst all this, de Villiers stood firm, going about his business with authority. He ramped Shami for a six over third-man and flicked Bumrah for a boundary to the vacant midwicket region, but with wickets falling at regular intervals, he was forced to shell his aggressive approach.

Maharaj (15) gave de Villiers some support, but was undone by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who also accounted for Morkel.

Steyn made a courageous effort in coming out to bat in a bid to extend the lead. Bumrah soon ended the entertainment when de Villiers mistimed a length ball for Bhuvneshwar to hold a fine catch at deep midwicket.

Bumrah and Shami picked up three wickets apiece, while Bhuvneshwar and Pandya chipped in with two each.

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