Saturday, January 6, 2018

India face mammoth task of overhauling SA's first innings total of 286 runs

India's Murali Vijay edges one to gully where he is pouched by South African Dean Elgar after scoring just one run; (below) SA players celebrate the dismissal of India batsman Shikhar Dhawan on Day One of the first Test at Newlands in Cape Town yesterday. Pic/ AFP
India's Murali Vijay edges one to gully where he is pouched by South African Dean Elgar after scoring just one run; (below) SA players celebrate the dismissal of India batsman Shikhar Dhawan on Day One of the first Test at Newlands in Cape Town yesterday. Pic/ AFP 

India's decision to drop Ajinkya Rahane, their Test vice-captain, and arguably best batsman in overseas conditions, could come back to haunt them as they were reduced to 28 for 3 after allowing South Africa to put 286 on the board on a Cape Town pitch that offered plenty to the quick bowlers.

The day began with surprises as India handed Jasprit Bumrah a Test debut, but it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar who did the early damage, bowling some excellent deliveries to strike thrice in quick succession. Dean Elgar nicked off, Aiden Markram was trapped in front and Hashim Amla played a loose shot as South Africa slumped to 12 for 3.

If India thought this was a good toss to lose, they had another thing coming as AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis counter-attacked in majestic fashion. De Villiers was the aggressor, taking a few chances early on, but with Du Plessis standing tall and strong at the other end, the pressure was back on India. The pair of South Africa's best batsmen added 124 for the third wicket -- a massive partnership considering the conditions and the state of the match -- before de Villiers (65) dragged one back onto his stumps off Bumrah to give him his maiden Test wicket.

Even when the hard work was done, Du Plessis (62) following de Villiers back into the pavilion, India were left with a hard grind as the lower order resisted with aplomb. Quinton de Kock, trying to shake off a run of poor scores, took Bhuvneshwar for a hat-trick of boundaries, carving the ball through the off side with ease. There were vital contributions from Vernon Philander (23), Keshav Maharaj (35) and Kagiso Rabada (26) as South Africa pushed on to 286.

When India came out to bat, there was an air of expectancy and Philander delivered on cue, coaxing Vijay into a loose shot that landed safely in the hands of gully.

Shikhar Dhawan, who wasn't having the best of days, having grassed a simple catch at slips, went after a Dale Steyn short ball and ended up presenting him with a return catch that he was most happy to take.

The big wicket, however, went to Morne Morkel, bowling his first ball of the Test. The ball climbed on Virat Kohli and moved just enough to take the outside edge, De Kock making no mistake behind the stumps.

India, trailing by 258 runs, now have their own mountain to climb in the days to come, and perhaps will not have the will to enjoy the view of the magnificent Table Mountain that towers over the ground.


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