Lunch: South Africa 78 for 0 (Markram 51*, Elgar 26*) v India
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Under cloudless skies and on a pitch with brown rather than green grass, South Africa made a near-perfect start to the Centurion Test. Faf du Plessis won the toss and chose to bat – a decision his opposite number Virat Kohli termed a “no-brainer” – and his openers played out a wicketless first session. At lunch, South Africa were 78 for 0, with Aiden Markram passing 50 for the fourth time in only his fifth Test, and Dean Elgar battling to 26 at the other end.
Bounce apart, there wasn’t a whole lot of help for the seam bowlers, and perhaps this was why India went in with Ishant Sharma ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who picked up 4 for 87 and 2 for 33 in Cape Town. The conditions demanded discipline from the quicks, and they largely fulfilled the brief in the first hour barring Mohammed Shami.
Much like day one in Cape Town, Shami was wayward and below top pace with the new ball, and he conceded 23 in the four overs he bowled, split into two spells, in the session. Markram took full toll when he strayed, whether egregiously – picking up boundaries off two wide half-volleys and a wide long-hop – or marginally – a clip wide of mid-on from a good-length ball on off stump.
Jasprit Bumrah, given the new ball, was tight with his lines and lengths, but was perhaps a touch on the short side to really trouble the openers. This became evident when Ishant came on as first change and immediately began testing Elgar’s footwork and judgment with his angle, a bit of seam movement, and a slightly fuller length that drew the left-hander forward. Ishant beat Elgar’s outside edge twice in his first two overs, hit him on the gloves with one that climbed unexpectedly, and then found Markram’s edge only for the ball to fall short of third slip.
That spell apart, there was little threat to either opener from the seamers, and Hardik Pandya, the fourth seamer, was soon in operation, bowling a sixth-stump line to Markram with deep point and deep square leg in place. By and large, too, Virat Kohli’s fields were on the defensive side, mindful of the need to play the waiting game in good batting conditions.
The waiting game, however, would require the bowlers to maintain their discipline for long periods. Bumrah, coming back for a second spell, lost all his rhythm, and conceded three fours in one over. The second and third were off poor balls, Markram clattering a short one through the covers and an overpitched one through midwicket, but the first was a bit of misfortune for the bowler: Elgar hooked a bouncer straight to where long leg was initially stationed, but M Vijay misjudged the flight of the ball through the thin Highveld air, sprinting forward and realising too late that the ball was going to clear him comfortably.
As lunch neared, Markram’s batting grew imperious. India kept searching for lbw, seeing him take guard on off stump, but his balance was always perfect as he clipped them away through the leg side or back past the bowler. When Pandya dropped short in the 25th over of the morning, he swivelled and pulled him for a one-bounce four, before picking up a single next ball to bring up his fifty.
India’s attack contained four seamers, but by lunch it seemed as if their one spinner would pose a bigger threat to South Africa’s batsmen. R Ashwin got his first ball to spin sharply into Markram and raise a puff of dust off the surface. Then he worried Elgar with his changes of pace and trajectory, beating his bat twice in only 10 balls. On one of these occasions, India unsuccessfully reviewed for caught-behind.
Apart from Ishant for Bhuvneshwar, India made two other changes to their line-up, with Parthiv Patel replacing Wriddhiman Saha, who has a hamstring niggle, and KL Rahul replacing Shikhar Dhawan. South Africa made one change, with Lungi Ngidi making a Test debut on his home ground in place of the injured Dale Steyn.