Pacers reduce India to 28/3 after South Africa make 286


NEW DELHI: There was quite a buzz around India’s tour of South Africa. Captain Faf du Plessis had already spiced up the impending clash with his “score to settle” against India comment. His bowlers have given early bragging rights with the wickets of India openers and the prized scalp of captain Virat Kohli after South Africa were 286 all out in their first innings.

The opening day of the first Test at Newlands lived up to the expectations offering an absorbing contest between the bat and ball. At the close of play, India were 28/3, trailing by 258 runs with Cheteshwar Pujara (5*) and Rohit Sharma (0*) batting.

All the three wickets to fall were batsmen’s fault. Murali Vijay chased an outside off stump delivery to be caught at gully on 1. Shikhar Dhawan (16) was looking good with two fours in the first over but then pulled one from the returning Dale Steyn to offer an easy return catch. At 18/2 in 5.2 overs, the onus fell on Kohli and the ever-dependable Cheteshwar Pujara to settle the jitters. But Morne Morkel rattled the visitors further, getting extra bounce and removed Kohli (5) with his first ball of the Test.

There were doubts about whether the Indian batting line-up would be able to stand against the fearsome pace quartet of Steyn, Philander, Rabada and Morkel. By the time the two teams went back into their respective dressing rooms, the doubts turned into reality.

This was after Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave India a dream start with a deadly opening spell in which he took three wickets in his first three overs. That was followed by counterattack from AB de Villiers (65) and a solid knock from Du Plessis (62) who together added 114 runs for the fourth wicket and led the recovery from 12/3 to 126/3. They both scored half-centuries each before departing after lunch and then Quinton de Kock took the mantle with three consecutive fours off debutant Jasprit Bumrah who had earlier clean-bowled De Villiers for his maiden Test wicket. De Kock strung an important partnership with Vernon Philander worth 60 runs before departing on 43 off Bhuvneshwar.

South Africa were 202/6 and India were in prime position to bowl them out cheaply. But their age-old problem of not being able to wipe out the tail-enders quickly returned as the last four wickets went on to add 84 runs before R Ashwin picked up two wickets to end their innings. Though South Africa were stopped from touching the psychological mark of 300 runs, the 286 runs seemed enough on a pitch that earlier saw Bhuvneshwar running through the home teams’ top-order.

And in 11 overs, India’s three big guns had been put to bed. However, none of the deliveries that got them were wicket-taking. The dismissals had more to do with the over-eagerness of the batsmen trying to put bat to ball. In a period when patience was the key, India chose to attack.

The result was a scoreline that put South Africa in control after they were blown away when their captain took the punt to bat first on a green track. —Agencies

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