SOUTH AFRICA’S TOUR OF INDIA, 2019
Ashwin picked a four-fer in South Africa’s first innings. © BCCI
It took India 259 balls to pick up the ninth South African wicket on Saturday. Never before in this series did they struggle so much to strike with the frontline batsmen continuing to falter for the visitors. Having already lost three wickets by stumps on day two, the procession continued on day three as well and at one stage it appeared they would come out to bat again. Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander though thwarted India’s plans and did their best to delay the inevitable before finally caving in right before stumps to give the hosts a first innings lead of 326 runs.
The hosts took just 13 balls to strike in the morning when Mohammed Shami got rid of nightwatchman Anrich Nortje. Bowled on a shortish length, the ball kept climbing and took the outside edge of Nortje to eventually land in Virat Kohli’s hands at fourth slip. Faf du Plessis then had a nervy start when he fetched a streaky four off the first ball he faced against Shami. The pacer continued to test the South African captain with the incoming deliveries but the 35-year-old managed to survive the period.
At the other end, Theunis de Bruyn also fell to make matters tough for the visitors before du Plessis stopped the rut alongside Quinton de Kock. The duo added 75 runs for the fifth wicket to steady the ship but India found their saviour in Ashwin just before the lunch break. The offspinner bowled a peach that left the batsman a touch to knock off the bails. Post the break, Ravindra Jadeja got into the act dismissing Senuran Muthusamy to leave South Africa in tatters.
A nervy Philander, who had registered two ducks in the first Test, finally opened his account off his 22nd delivery and then slowly got into his groove, driving Ashwin for a couple of boundaries in the same over. The offspinner though, redeemed himself and got the prize scalp of du Plessis with a very good ball that spun slightly after pitching just outside off to take the outside edge.
In the final hour before the Tea break, Philander combined with Maharaj to offer some resistance that forced India to rely on the new ball in the final session. But the duo continued their rescue act against Ishant Sharma and Shami against the brand new cherry forcing Kohli to go back to his spinners. Maharaj then smashed one through cover against Ashwin to register his highest Test score and two balls later brought up an half-century as well.
India’s frustration grew as even the runs started flowing at one stage. Maharaj, battling pain in his right shoulder, continued to make merry as he hit Jadeja for back-to-back boundaries to bring up the century partnership. No other South African duo had batted any longer in the series by this time. Ashwin finally gave India a massive fillip just a few overs before stumps when he drifted one into Maharaj that took the batsman’s inside edge before landing in Rohit Sharma’s hands at leg slip. Three overs later, he struck again, this time getting rid of last-man Kagiso Rabada to finish with four wickets. And now we wait to see if India enforce the follow on or fancy a few overs on day four.
Brief scores: South Africa 275 (Keshav Maharaj 72, Faf du Plessis 64; Ravichandran Ashwin 4-69, Umesh Yadav 3-37) trail India 601/5 decl., by 326 runs.