Ravindra Jadeja tripped in his follow-up while going for a vociferous appeal early on in the morning. Rohit Sharma tumbled over an enthusiastic fan who managed to breach the security barrier and meet his idol. And the South African wickets continued to tumble as frequently as they did the evening earlier.
After an action-packed morning session, however, the 13,000-plus spectators — the largest turnout at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium — witnessed a grinding day of Test cricket with South Africa’s late order showing character to bat out the third day.
Steadying the ship
Captain Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock steadied the ship with a 75-run stand for the sixth wicket before Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj frustrated India’s bowlers by adding 109 runs for the ninth.
As a result, by the time Kagiso Rabada was trapped in front of the wickets by R. Ashwin, South Africa had ensured the Indian camp had the whole night to ponder over enforcing the follow-on. Despite the late fightback by the visitors, the impact of India’s bowlers early on meant that India enjoyed a 326-run advantage, having bowled South Africa out for 275 at the stroke of stumps.
Earlier, half an hour into the day’s play, India seemed to rattle South Africa. It took only 14 balls for Mohammed Shami to see the back of nightwatchman Anrich Nortje. With the cherry still shining and the pitch keeping the pacers interested, Shami adopted a short-ball ploy and Nortje could only fend it to a lunging Virat Kohli at fourth slip.
Just when du Plessis, who almost dragged his first ball back on to the stumps, and Theunis de Bruyn, who drove Shami with aplomb in the opening over, were getting into the groove, Wriddhiman Saha dived at full length to pull off a stunner to end de Bruyn’s knock and give a rampaging Umesh Yadav his third wicket.
At 53 for five, the Proteas were in danger of folding up early but du Plessis and de Kock negotiated India’s pace triumvirate and spin duo for the next hour. While de Kock displayed his driving prowess, du Plessis welcomed Ravindra Jadeja into the attack by charging down to hit one into the sight-screen.
The Proteas captain continued to target Jadeja, smashing three fours in his third over — a cut followed by two glorious cover-drives, the last of which helping him raise his fifty. Even as the partnership was settling down, Ashwin came up with a magic ball that pitched on the middle and leg and took off the off-bail to leave de Kock flummoxed.
With Senuran Muthusamy shouldering arms to Jadeja immediately after lunch, Philander joined du Plessis and got into the blocking zone right away. With runs drying up and strike hardly rotated, perhaps du Plessis lost his concentration as he edged Jadeja for Ajinkya Rahane to pouch a sharp catch at slip to leave the score at 162 for eight.
With the ball getting softer, Philander saw Keshav Maharaj walking out despite an injured right shoulder. The duo displayed the depth in South Africa’s batting by thwarting the home team for almost three hours.
While Philander’s defensive technique came to the fore, Maharaj was breezy with the willow. He cut and drove the spinners with finesse and even pulled Shami with success. Both the batsmen also survived a threatening spell of reverse-swing by Shami just before tea and also tackled the second new ball.
With 15 minutes remaining in the day’s play, Ashwin eventually succeeded in forcing Maharaj into a mistake with his leg-slip ploy before adding a fourth scalp in Rabada. But the Indian bowlers would realise the job is only half done.