Johannesburg – The third Test between the Proteas and India at the Wanderers is wide open at the end of day two after the visitors clinically got through the South African batting order on Thursday.
Ten wickets fell on the day, and when South Africa were all out for 194, they had a lead of just seven.
It means that we are effectively back to square one, with the two first innings having cancelled each other out, and now it will be a case of which batting line-up can handle these conditions best.
SCOREBOARD: Proteas v India - 3rd Test, Day 2
At stumps on day two, India were 49/1, having carved out a lead of 42 with Murali Vijay (13*) and Lokesh Rahul (16*) at the crease.
At this stage, India will be feeling pretty good about their chances.
It was a disappointing day for the hosts given that their top order, with the exception of Hashim Amla, all failed.
The conditions, as was the case on day one, made batting extremely difficult and South Africa had to toil for every run.
While the wicket has provided entertaining spells of fast bowling, it has left the batsmen fighting for survival and often it has not seemed like a fair contest between bat and ball.
Weather permitting, this match will certainly not go five days, though some rain is expected.
The visitors had elevated wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel to the top of their order in an attempt to get some quick runs, and it seemed to be working before he inside-edged a delivery from Vernon Philander onto his pad.
The ball lobbed up towards gully, where Aiden Markram took a superb catch diving forward to remove Patel for 16.
Amla’s 61 was the highlight of the day from a South African perspective and a stark reminder of his ability to play innings that other batsmen simply can’t.
The ‘Mighty Hash’ survived two Indian reviews for LBW and had to review himself to overturn a decision off Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/34) that had been given out when he was on 41, but his contribution was crucial.
Batting outside off stump for most of his knock, Amla defended well all through his innings without ever being bogged down.
It was a case of him being proactive rather reactive on a pitch where almost all of the batsmen have resembled sitting ducks.
By the time he had clipped Jasprit Bumrah (5/54) to Hardik Pandya on the deep square leg fence, Amla had batted for four hours and been the glue that held an otherwise crumbling Proteas top order together.
After Dean Elgar had been caught behind for 4 early in the day off Kumar, Amla joined night-watchman Kagiso Rabada at the wicket.
Rabada surprised everybody as he left and defended with aplomb throughout his knock of 30.
In the context of the game, Rabada’s 64-run partnership with Amla was vital and it laid the platform for the South African middle order to take the game away from the visitors.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, India got stuck in after lunch with Kumar and Bumrah delivering devastating spells.
De Villiers (5) was clean bowled by a gem of an in-swinger from Kumar, Du Plessis (8) left a ball that cannoned into the stumps from Bumrah while Quinton de Kock (8) continued his poor form with the bat when he edged Bumrah through to Parthiv Patel behind the stumps.
Philander chipped in with a priceless 35 before he was out hooking to fine leg off Mohammed Shami.
Andile Phehlukwayo hit two eye-catching boundaries before missing a full toss off Bumrah to be trapped LBW for 9, and when Lungi Ngidi was caught down the leg side off a short one, Bumrah had five wickets and South Africa were all out.
Bumrah got better as the innings went on, and his combination of raw pace and movement off the wicket made him unplayable at times as he picked up his first ever five-wicket haul in just his third Test.