SA vs IND, 2nd Test, Day 2: Shardul Thakur derails the Proteas

India pacer Thakur's career-best seven for 61 chokes South Africa on second day; the tourists take 58-run lead at stumps.

India fast bowler Shardul Thakur celebrates the dismissal of Lungi Ngidi at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Tuesday.   -  REUTERS

Not for nothing is Shardul Thakur a `breakthrough’ bowler. He is sharp, focussed and full of boyish enthusiasm.

He stays in the shadow of his more illustrious compatriots, but, when given an opportunity, comes bounding in and asks questions with ‘effort’ balls. 

On Tuesday, day two of the second Freedom Test here at the Wanderers, Thakur proved more than a breakthrough seamer. He scalped a career-best seven for 61, taking the centre-stage, bowling with venom. 

On view were rhythm, energy and skill, as the Mumbaikar moved the ball both ways, mixed his length, extracted bounce.

Thakur’s rich haul notwithstanding, the Proteas, replying to India’s 202, gained a 27-run lead in the first innings.

And in a day of gripping action, incisive left-arm seamer Marco Jansen removed India skipper K.L. Rahul, caught low in the cordon by Aiden Markram, off a back of a length delivery close to off-stump.

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And Mayank Agarwal (23), who was driving the ball crisply, fell to a Duanne Olivier inswinger.

The bowling was often hostile but Cheteshwar Pujara (35 batting) counter-attacked, square-driving and on-driving Jansen, pulling Olivier. And Ajinkya Rahane (11 batting) survived.

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India was 85 for two at stumps, ahead by 58 runs. The Test is on a knife-edge. Cracks are opening up on the surface, the ball is rearing from a length and batters took blows on the body.

Earlier, Keegan Petersen (62) was impressive notching up his first Test half-century. The diminutive Petersen has an organised game. He is solid in defence and fluent when he drives or whips off his legs. Importantly, he has footwork and balance.  

He flicked and on-drove Mohammed Siraj, who pulled up with a hamstring strain on day one but made a quick recovery to bowl on day two, for boundaries. Mohammed Shami was cover-driven.  

Jasprit Bumrah and Shami were red hot in the morning but Dean Elgar and Petersen weathered the first hour with application, courage and some luck.

Elgar, rising on his toes to keep the short-pitched deliveries down with soft hands, was typically dogged.

Rahul, captaining with imagination, switched his pacemen. The plan worked. 

Thakur, with a mean delivery of away movement [from the left-hander] and lift, ended Elgar’s determined tenure.

Elgar (28) and Peterson added 74 runs for the second wicket.

Shifting his line adeptly to the right-hander, Thakur removed Petersen (62) with a well-pitched up away outswinger, luring the batsman into a fatal drive. 

And just before lunch, he brought one into the Rassie van der Dussen to win a controversial caught-behind verdict. 

On a day of fortune swings, Temba Bavuma and wicket-keeper batter Kyle Verreynne put together a partnership.

Verreynne, who got firmly behind the line, looked composed. The 60-run fifth wicket association was ended when Thakur brought one back into Verreynne.

Bavuma launched into strokes, straight-driving Bumrah, on-driving Ashwin and going right back, shortening the length, and pulling the off-spinner for a six.

The aggressive Bauma (51 off 60) was rather unlucky to be brilliantly held down the leg-side by Rishabh Pant, off that man again, Thakur. 

In low scoring duels, every run counts and Jansen and Keshav Maharaj produced vital knocks as South Africa gained the lead.

Thakur returned to polish off the tail; Pant pouching a flying off-side catch to dismiss Ngidi. The catch complemented the day when Thakur soared.

India (Ist inngs) 202 & 85/2

South Africa (Ist inngs): Dean Elgar c Pant b Thakur 28 (120b. 4x4), Aiden Markram lbw b Shami 7 (12b, 1x4), Keegan Petersen c Mayank b Thakur 62 (118b, 9x4), Rassie van der Dussen c Pant b Thakur 1 (17b), Temba Bavuma c Pant b Thakur 51 (60b, 6x4, 1x6), Kyle Verreynne lbw b Thakur 21 (72b, 2x4), Marco Jansen c Ashwin b Thakur 21 (34b, 3x4), Kagiso Rabada c Siraj b Shami 0 (6b), Keshav Maharaj b Bumrah 21 (29b, 3x4), Duanne Olivier (not out) 1 (12b), Lungi Ngidi c Pant b Thakur 0 (1), Extras (b-4, lb-4, nb-3, w-5) 16, Total (all out in 79.4 overs) 229.

Fall of wkts: 1-14 (Markram, 3.5), 2-88 (Elgar, 38.5), 3-101 (Keegan Petersen, 42.6), 4-102 (van der Dussen, 44.4), 5-162 (Verreynne, 64.6), 6-177 (Bavuma, 66.3), 7-179 (Rabada, 67.3), 8-217 (Maharaj, 75.2), 9-228 (Jansen, 79.1 overs).  

India bowling: Bumrah 21-5-49-1,  Shami 21-5-52-2, Siraj 9.5-2-24-0, Thakur17.5-3-61-7 Ashwin 10-1-35-0.

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