– The second Test between the Proteas and India at Centurion has been
evenly-poised throughout, but late on Tuesday a Lungi Ngidi-inspired
moment of magic put the Proteas well ahead going into the final day.
The equation is simple: South
Africa need 7 more
wickets to win the series while India need another 252 runs to keep
At stumps, India were in trouble
Chasing 287 for victory,
India had needed their captain Virat Kohli to repeat, or at
least come close to repeating, his first-innings heroics.
Instead, Ngidi brought the house
down at about 17:25 when he trapped India’s leader LBW for 5.
India had fancied their chances
on this tour and believed they would be the first of their kind to win a Test
series in this country.
But with Kholi gone, it will now
take a miracle to keep that dream alive.
Cheteshwar Pujara (11*) and
Parthiv Patel (5*) are at the wicket for the visitors.
Ngidi, meanwhile, finished the
day with 2/14 from his six overs as his encouraging start to Test cricket
continues. He was so close to having Kohli out in similar fashion in the first
innings, with a faint inside edge denying him, but this time the debutant had
his moment in the Centurion sun.
Kohli’s wicket was always going
to be key, and now that it is in South Africa’s back pocket, India will have to
find another hero on Wednesday.
Kagiso Rabada (1/9) struck first
for the hosts when he benefitted from a wicket that had displayed uneven bounce
Murali Vijay should have gone
forward to a delivery that was angling in, and when the ball stayed low he had
no chance. Vijay was out bowled, and South Africa were away.
Opener Lokesh Rahul was next to
go, becoming Ngidi’s first victim when he slapped the 21-year-old to Keshav
Maharaj at point.
That brought Kohli to the wicket,
and the innings that was likely to decide this Test match began.
Ngidi had spoken after day two
about Kohli shuffling across his stumps being a potential weakness in his game,
and that would have made what happened on Tuesday so much sweeter.
Kohli moved across his stumps, as
Ngidi had described two days earlier, and looked to work the ball onto the leg
side. When he didn’t make contact, it just looked out, and even a review could
not save India’s biggest weapon.
The South African innings had
earlier been characterised by long periods of patient, cautious batting –
particularly from skipper Faf du Plessis (48 off 141) – but that just
highlighted the importance of every ball and how high the stakes have been
throughout this contest.
There has been so little
separating the sides at Centurion up until now.
South Africa had started the day
on 90/2 with AB de Villiers (80) and Dean Elgar (61) at the wicket and keen to
bat India out of the game.
Instead, they both fell before
lunch, along with an out-of-sorts Quinton de Kock (12), before Du Plessis (48)
and Philander (26) then put on a 156-ball partnership worth 46 runs.
The Proteas would have probably
wanted a bit more than their 286-run lead, but when Du Plessis was out caught
and bowled by Jasprit Bumrah, they had run out of batsmen.
That lead, though, looks more
than enough at this stage.