Indian skipper Virat Kohli (85 batting) waged a lone battle to lift the struggling visitors to 183 for five in their first innings on the second day of the second cricket Test against South Africa at the Super Sport Park here on Sunday.
The flamboyant Delhi right-hander hit eight fours in his unbeaten 16th half-century in Test cricket after India bowled out the hosts for 335 in their first innings in the morning session.
Kohli and Hardik Pandya (11 batting) were at the crease as the umpires called for the end of day’s play with India still 152 runs in arrear.
Earlier in the day, South African captain Faf du Plessis’ 63 drove the hosts to 335. He registered his 17th fifty in Test cricket as South Africa added 66 runs to their overnight score of 269/6.
Du Plessis, who was unbeaten on 24 on Saturday, drove the hosts forward in the morning even though he didn’t get convincing support from the other end. His judicious shot selection helped him negotiate the Indian bowlers.
Seamer Mohammed Shami removed overnight batsman Keshav Maharaj (18) early. He edged to wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel. It was Shami’s 100th Test wicket in 29 matches. He became third quickest Indian fast bowler to pick 100 wickets behind Kapil Dev, who did it in 25 Tests and Irfan Pathan (28).
Kagiso Rabada (11) hooked a rising delivery from Ishant Sharma for a catch to Hardik Pandya who had to run forward from deep square leg. But South Africa had already reached 324/8 by this time thanks to du Plessis.
Du Plessis, later, missed the line of an Ishant delivery as the ball crashed his stumps to fall the ninth wicket of the hosts.
Morne Morkel swivelled one full-toss from off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to the hands of Murali Vijay at deep cover to bring an end to the first innings of South Africa. Morkel’s was Ashwin’s fourth wicket of the innings.
The beginning of India’s reply was not good. At the score of 28, India lost Lokesh Rahul (10) and Cheteshwar Pujara (0) in an over from Morne Morkel.
While opening batsman Rahul gave a return catch to Morkel following a soft drive, Pujara ran himself out as he hurried for a run on the first delivery he faced. Debutant Lungi Ngidi’s direct throw from mid-on caught Pujara short of the crease and India received a big blow.
In walked Kohli and there began the damage-repair work. Kohli and Murali Vijay (46) put together a third-wicket stand of 79 runs.
Kohli’s excellent attacking batsmanship and Vijay’s dogged and patient approach not only kept the hosts at bay but also applied the pressure on them.
Kohli played with a clear mind of presenting a straight bat against the South African bowlers who were inconsistent with their probing line and length. When they erred, Kohli made full use of it, especially the ones pitched higher up.
He also used his wrists well to employ flicks off Kagiso Rabada and Morkel. South Africa opened up the infield, allowing the Indians to also get singles.
Vijay, at the other end, batted with patience, backing his defensive techniques to the hilt. He fended off the rising delivery outside the off stump with controlled cut and push.
The Tamil Nadu right-hander perished, being caught by wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock while trying to cut left-arm spinner Maharaj.
India’s innings wobbled afterwards even as Kohli continued to bat with aplomb.
Rohit Sharma (10) continued to fail for the third consecutive innings as he was ruled LBW against Rabada. Parthiv (19) edged behind to give Ngidi his maiden wicket.
Later, Pandya and Kohli ensured that India don’t lose any more wickets as South Africa pressed high to bag another wicket which could have heavily tilted the game in their favour.