Lunch India 4 for 0 (Vijay 4*, Rahul 0*) trail South Africa 335 (Markram 94, Amla 82, du Plessis 63) by 331 runs
A half-century from Faf du Plessis extended South Africa’s first-innings total to 335 as India picked up the last four wickets for 66 runs on the second morning in Centurion. A rash of missed chances frustrated India somewhat during a 42-run eighth-wicket stand between du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada, but they created enough chances in an improved bowling performance for the let-offs to not cost them too much.
Starting from Hashim Amla’s run-out dismissal late on the first evening, South Africa lost their last seven wickets for 81 runs.
Ishant Sharma dismissed Rabada and du Plessis to finish with impressive figures of 3 for 46 in 22 overs. The innings ended 11 minutes from lunch when Morne Morkel lofted R Ashwin straight to deep cover to give him his fourth wicket. It left just enough time in the session for India to face one over. Du Plessis opened the bowling with his left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, and his one over produced two small moments of drama, a full-toss that M Vijay drove to the cover boundary and an inside-edge, again off Vijay, that flew just wide of short leg.
As a collective, India’s fast bowlers were far more consistent on the second morning than they were at any point on day one. Ishant and Jasprit Bumrah only conceded 12 runs in the first eight overs of the day before Mohammed Shami came on to bowl. Shami found the rhythm that had deserted him all through Saturday, hitting the seam on a tight line close to off stump and finding movement off the deck, mostly away from the right-hander. One such delivery gave India their first breakthrough of the morning, Maharaj nicking behind to give Shami his 100th Test wicket.
At the other end, Ashwin looked like getting Rabada out at any moment, confounding the left-hander with his dip and turn. Twice in two balls, India’s fielders let off Rabada. First, he nicked a quick-turning offbreak from Ashwin to the right of Virat Kohli at slip, and India’s captain got a hand to the ball but couldn’t hold on. Then he charged out of his crease, slogged, and miscued one high over the point region. Converging without communicating clearly, Hardik Pandya – who got his hands to the ball – and Shami fluffed up the opportunity.
Pandya, replacing Shami, found Rabada’s edge in his first over but the ball didn’t carry to first slip; an argument could be made that the wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel should have dived across and gone for the catch. Soon after, du Plessis appeared to edge Ashwin while looking to defend him off the back foot and the ball clanged off Parthiv’s gloves.
Around all these missed opportunities, South Africa were scoring some valuable runs; du Plessis had driven Shami straight and punched Shami through cover point for fours, and then swept Ashwin hard and low to the square-leg boundary. A late-cut off Ashwin’s carrom ball moved the partnership with Rabada past 40.
Ishant then returned, sending Pandya to the square-leg boundary, and a bit of athleticism from the latter sent back Rabada after he miscued a hook. Then du Plessis, failing to get fully forward, left a gap between bat and pad and let a full indipper from Ishant sneak through. Morkel, promoted to No. 10 ahead of the debutant Lungi Ngidi, played a couple of gorgeous leg-side clips off Ishant, but didn’t last long against Ashwin, falling to him for the sixth time in six Tests.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.