IND vs SA: South Africa in driver’s seat despite Pandya show

The all-rounder’s blitzkrieg enabled India get to 209 – reducing the first innings deficit to 77 - on the second day of the first Test at the Newlands on an eventful Saturday.

Kagiso Rabada celebrates the dismissal of Hardik Pandya in Cape Town on Saturday.   -  AFP

Hardik Pandya’s cricket is a lot about heart. This said, his natural ability too comes through forcefully on the big stage.

The all-rounder expresses himself on the field, his game is visceral in nature. Importantly, this explosive cricketer is without the fear of failure.

After a period of initial struggle adjusting to the seam movement and bounce on his first Test innings in South Africa, Pandya’s primal instincts took over as he pounded the home attack for a 95-ball 93 on a seaming track.

His onslaught when the Indian innings was fast sliding to an early conclusion – the side was reeling at 92 for seven - was brutal in nature.

The all-rounder’s blitzkrieg enabled India get to 209 – reducing the first innings deficit to 77 - on the second day of the first Test at the Newlands on an eventful Saturday.

Then, a fired-up Pandya struck with his lively pace bowling, getting Aiden Markram (34), who had impressed with fluent back-foot play, to miscue a pull late in the day.

And then, he delivered another blow, seaming one away from the left-handed Dean Elgar to find the edge.

Scoreboard and ball-by-ball details

South Africa, in its second innings, was 65 for two at stumps. Earlier, Elgar, on a pair, was let off by Mohammed Shami, late to get under a skier, from a top-edge off Jasprit Bumrah.

The day belonged to Pandya. Only in the last phase of his innings when Rabada and Morkel targeted his body by pitching short from round the wicket did he appear in discomfort.

By then, he had inflicted plenty of damage on the South African attack with his bludgeoning strikes off the pacemen over covers, the cuts and the pulls, the whips and the dab shot over the cordon.

Pandya’s eighth-wicket association with a stubborn Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25) – the partnership was broken when Bhuvneshwar nicked a Morkel away-seamer —was worth a vital 99.

READ: Steyn comeback overshadowed by injury

Pandya does bat with the spirit of an adventurer with his bat-speed and reach, taking on Faf du Plessis’ attacking fields. When he was finally dismissed slashing at a close-to-the-body-delivery round-the-wicket delivery from Kagiso Rabada, he walked back to quite an ovation.

He had slices of luck as well. Reprieved on 14 - Elgar reacted late at gully when Pandya slashed at Steyn - the Indian was also let off on 71, when de Kock missed a stumping after left-armer Keshav Maharaj deceived the batsman in flight.

For South Africa, old warhorse Dale Steyn, bowling with skill, pace and controlled hostility, was the pick with picture perfect deliveries that seamed away or those that climbed sharply.  

In the event, it was a blow for South Africa when Steyn had to leave the field with a bruised heel. He underwent a scan.

Between some mean lifters, Morkel struggled to get his length right and was taken for runs by Pandya. Rabada was hostile in spells while Philander bowled with typical control and movement.

In the morning, Pujara got solidly behind the line. The contest between Steyn and Pujara was engrossing. The pace ace had a short-leg in place and bounced at Pujara who rose on his toes and kept the ball down with a high left elbow and soft hands.

And when Steyn erred in line, Pujara promptly flicked. Pujara’s 92-ball 26 ended after lunch when he uncharacteristically played away from his body at Philander.

Rohit Sharma, showing restraint, battled but his lack of footwork to counter these conditions saw him being opened up time and again. Philander kept beating Rohit outside off, with the batsman neither moving forward nor staying back.

Eventually Rabada trapped Rohit leg-before with one that nipped back.

R. Ashwin and Wriddiman Saha did not last long – the former fell to a fine divining catch by de Kock after being drawn outside off by Philander and the latter was done in by a Steyn delivery that held its line.

Steyn lifted his arms in delight and let out a war cry. It was a pity he had to leave the field later.