South Africa captain Dean Elgar was gutsy in leading the way for his team with the bat as South Africa finished at 118/2 in 40 overs at stumps on day three of the second Test against India at the Wanderers here on Wednesday.
With two days left in the match, South Africa need 122 runs to level the series while India look for eight wickets to script their maiden series victory in the ‘Rainbow Nation’. Resuming from 34/0 at tea, Aiden Markram continued his nice nick from the second session, driving Shardul Thakur through point.
But Thakur bounced back by rapping Markram on pads twice for lbw calls and then beating him on the fifth ball. Thakur closed the over by trapping Markram lbw with a nip-backer and smashing his back leg.
Keegan Petersen creamed boundaries through the off-side off Thakur and Jasprit Bumrah while Elgar held up one end and was happy rotating the strike. The 46-run stand off 104 balls for the second wicket was broken by Ravichandran Ashwin, trapping Petersen lbw with the one turning in sharply from outside-off and going past his glance to be hit high on knee-roll.
With Rassie van der Dussen steady at the crease, Elgar continued to take blows to his body but was dislodged from the crease. Elgar was hit on the right shoulder after he took his eyes off while trying to duck a Bumrah bouncer. He was also smashed on the gloves from Thakur before taking another hit on shoulder from Shami. Elgar and van der Dussen saw out time till stumps to leave things interestingly poised.
Earlier, India were all out for 266 after cameos from Shardul Thakur and Hanuma Vihari took the lead past 200 with a stand of 111 runs between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane setting the base for India to pose a tricky target for South Africa. For the hosts, Rabada, Jansen and Ngidi took three wickets each.
The day began with an action-packed first session, with India dominating the first hour, making 66 runs in 14 overs, thanks to Rahane and Pujara cashing on South Africa’s wayward lines and lengths. But the hosts’ bounced back in the second hour, taking four wickets while conceding 37 runs.
Resuming from 82/2 on day two, Pujara continued his impressive run, hitting Jansen for two fours through on-side. On the other hand, Rahane slashed Jansen with a drive through mid-off followed by a beautiful uppercut over deep point.
South Africa were unable to find consistent lines and lengths, leaking runs as Rahane continued to smash Rabada for boundaries. They also missed a chance of Rahane at 43 when Markram at second slip and Petersen at gully went for the catch lobbing off the gloves. Markram made a late dive but the ball dropped in front of him.
Pujara reached his fifty in 62 balls while two overs later, Rahane brought up his half-century with back-to-back boundaries through point and gully off Duanne Olivier. After the first hour of play saw the partnership between Pujara and Rahane crossing the 100-run mark, South Africa bounced back in the second hour.
Rabada provided the first breakthrough, getting one to kick off from a length and Rahane edged to keeper Kyle Verreynne, breaking the partnership off 144 balls. Pujara survived an lbw appeal off Olivier but was trapped lbw by Rabada with a big inswinger hitting him flush on the pads. Pujara took the review but couldn’t change the decision.
Rabada then dismissed Pant for a three-ball duck. After being beaten outside the off-stump, Rabada rattled Pant by hitting him on the gloves through a ball which bounced a bit. On the very next ball, Pant stepped out to slog but gave a feather edge behind to Verreynne.
Ravichandran Ashwin hit some boundaries but was caught down the leg side by Verreynne off Lungi Ngidi. Thakur got off the mark with a four off his second ball and post lunch, came out all guns blazing, hammering boundaries through cover and point off Jansen. Thakur continued to deal into boundaries, a top-edge on hook went over Verreynne for a six while the next two boundaries were lofted and pulled towards the on-side.
Thakur’s scintillating knock ended when he pulled Jansen’s short ball but picked out Keshav Maharaj at deep square leg. With some byes and no-balls, India’s lead swelled past 200. Jansen then strangled Shami down leg for a duck. Vihari and Jasprit Bumrah took a four and six respectively off Rabada but in the next over, Ngidi took the latter out with a top-edge flying to Jansen at point.
With Siraj struggling due to a hamstring issue, Vihari farmed the strike and began to go for the kill. He made use of the short ball strategy to upper-cut over slip cordon, slap over mid-wicket with a forehand smash-like shot, hitting over extra cover and pulling over deep square leg.
Ngidi ended India’s innings by ratting Siraj’s off-stump, as 82 runs came off the last four partnerships, giving South Africa a target at a place where they have never chased anything above 220.
Brief scores: India 202 & 266 in 60.1 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 58, Cheteshwar Pujara 53; Kagiso Rabada 3/77, Lungi Ngidi 3/43) against South Africa 229 and 118/2 in 40 overs (Dean Elgar 46 not out, Aiden Markram 31; Ravichandran Ashwin 1/14, Shardul Thakur 1/24), South Africa need 122 runs to win.