South Africa ended a day of unconverted starts by their batsmen by throwing away what should have been a strong position at stumps on day one of their second test against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion, Pretoria, yesterday.
With 9.2 overs to go and Hashim Amla continuing to gorge himself on runs at the Centurion wicket, the Proteas were set for a good end to day one so that they could make most of their advantage today.
Amla averages over 80 runs there, thanks to five 100s and seven 50s.
But less than three overs later, the Proteas went from 246/3 to 251/6, thanks to two daft run outs and a loose shot by Quinton de Kock.
First captain Faf du Plessis caught Amla unawares by calling for a quick single that wasn’t there.
De Kock wasted no time by playing at a wide delivery to be caught at slip off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Vernon Philander suffered a brain fade when he galloped down the pitch after fending off a short one, despite Du Plessis telling him numerous times that there was no run.
The Proteas went to stumps at 269/6 with Du Plessis – who is currently 24 not out – the only remaining batsman of the preferred six.
Keshav Maharaj is currently on 10 not out.
Given that the hosts had not lost a wicket in the first session and just two by tea, losing four in the final stint meant all the hard work put in had been thrown away, especially when one considers that two of the batsmen – Aiden Markram and Amla – should have scored more runs.
Although some believe the Proteas laid to waste to their hard work, the visitors deserve credit for pushing through on a wicket that gave them little to work with.
The quicks were neat and tidy without penetrating, but spinner Ashwin was the pick of the bowling attack with figures of 90/3 from a whopping 31 overs on the first day of the test match on the Highveld.
Bowling a tight line and length attributed to his changes of pace, Ashwin was always going to be a handful for the hosts, especially given the bounce and turn he was getting.
After the drama at last week’s Newlands wicket, many expected the pitch to be livelier because it is on the Highveld.
But the brown colour of the square betrayed the fact that this wasn’t going to be another three-day test.
It was clear the bowlers and batsmen would have to work for their wickets and runs this time around.
Having decided to replace injured Dale Steyn with Titans paceman Lungi Ngidi – who made his debut yesterday – the Proteas continued with the four quicks and a spinner bowling attack.
Du Plessis chose to bat after winning the toss.
India, which had Ishant Sharma as Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s replacement, kept things tight in the first session.
However, they made no inroads when it came to wickets as the hosts made it to lunch on 78 for no loss.
The distinctive feature of the first session was Markram’s confirmation that he deserved his status as senior partner.
Having scored runs in his first four tests against the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, he picked up where he left off in the second innings.
His 15 boundaries included pulls, cuts, drives and leg glances.
In contrast, Dean Elgar appeared to need a GPS to figure out where his off-stump was.
He performed well until after lunch, when he was dismissed for 31 after steering the ball into silly point.