India had another terrific day in the first Test against South Africa as the tourists’ now need six wickets to breach Fortress Centurion on day five. After setting a target of 305 for the hosts’, India took out four wickets, including two from a brilliant Jasprit Bumrah in the last 20 minutes of day four to leave South Africa at 94/4 in 40.5 overs.
Chasing 305, Mohammed Shami made the early breakthrough as he set-up Markram with two away-swinging deliveries and finally completed the set-up by having the right-hander withdraw his bat late, thereby chopping on to the stumps. Keegan Petersen and captain Dean Elgar survived against the new-ball pair of Shami and Bumrah till Mohammed Siraj claimed Petersen with an outswinger, taking the outer edge to keeper Rishabh Pant’s right.
Siraj and Bumrah got a few lifters but Elgar put up a defiant show of resistance against everything coming at him. He, along with Rassie van der Dussen, were stodgy and resolute in their partnership of 40 runs off 137 balls for the third wicket.
It took a peach of a nip-backer from Bumrah to hit the top of off-stump as van der Dussen shouldered his arms, breaking a stubborn stand. Elgar marched on to bring his half-century with a clip through square leg off Siraj. Bumrah put India on top at the end of day four with a perfect yorker to rattle nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj’s stumps.
Earlier, Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen took four wickets each to bowl out India for 174 in the second innings. Wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant’s quick knock of 34 was the top score in India’s second innings while Rabada and Jansen took figures of 4/42 and 4/55 respectively.
Resuming from 16/1, nightwatchman Shardul Thakur had a nervy time. He left balls outside the off-stump and even survived an lbw chance off Jansen. Thakur flayed a powerful upper-cut over backward point off Jansen. But Rabada got one to kick off from a length to take the outer edge of Thakur’s bat to Mulder at third slip.
Pujara avoided a pair with a drive through mid-on off Ngidi. But on the fourth ball from the pacer, Pujara chipped to mid-wicket, where Rabada dropped a simple catch. Rahul, who picked easy leg-side boundaries while being cautious, chased a wide ball from Ngidi and edged to Elgar at first slip.
Pujara pounced on width from Mulder with a cracking cut through off-side. Kohli, on the other hand, wristed flicks and glances off Ngidi and Mulder before hitting Rabada twice for boundaries through point till lunch arrived.
Post lunch, Kohli fell on the first ball, playing a loose drive to a wide outside the off-stump delivery from Jansen and edged behind to keeper Quinton de Kock. This was the second time in the match that Kohli had driven and nicked behind. The Indian captain could only smash his pad with the bat while going back to the pavilion, with 2021 being the second successive year Kohli didn’t score a century.
Pujara could add a boundary to his score from lunch before being strangled down leg by Ngidi. Ajinkya Rahane slammed Jansen for three boundaries: a square drive through point, followed by a hooked six over backward square leg and a crisply-timed cover drive to accelerate India’s lead. But in an attempt to repeat the hook in Jansen’s next over, Rahane fell with the top-edge flying to van der Dussen at deep square leg.
Pant and Ravichandran Ashwin hit a flurry of boundaries while sharing a stand of 35 runs for the seventh wicket. But Rabada bounced out Ashwin as the ball took the glove edge to Petersen at gully. Pant continued to attack the pacers, whipping Mulder for successive boundaries before pulling Rabada through mid-wicket. But on the next ball, Rabada had the last laugh as a confused Pant toe-ended the pull to mid-on.
Rabada then picked his fourth wicket as Shami was caught by Mulder at third slip. Bumrah dabbed through gully to take the lead past 300 before Jansen bowled Siraj to end India’s second innings at 174. Though India lost seven wickets in 18 overs but added 95 runs to set a daunting target for South Africa and be on track to notch up a maiden Test win at a venue which is a fortress for the hosts’.
Brief scores: India 327 in 105.3 overs and 174 in 50.3 overs (Rishabh Pant 34, KL Rahul 23; Kagiso Rabada 4/42, Marco Jansen 4/55) against South Africa 197 in 62.3 overs and 94/4 in 40.5 overs (Dean Elgar 52 not out, Jasprit Bumrah 2/22), South Africa need 211 runs to win.