IND vs SA: Elgar, De Kock lead South African fightback

Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock thwart Indian bowlers on Day Three; South Africa still trails India by 117 runs, with two wickets in hand.

Spirited effort: South Africa’s Dean Elgar celebrates his century.   -  K. R. Deepak

On a raging turner in Mohali in 2015, R. Ashwin had reminded Dean Elgar (160, 287b, 18x4, 4x6) that he could not approach his innings as he would on a surface where the ball bounces off the pitch and flies in the air. Elgar averaged a lowly 19.57 over the four Tests in that series, with a personal best of 38.

So when the left-hander slog-swept Ashwin, shortly after lunch, to bring up South Africa’s first century in India since Hashim Amla did it in 2010, he might have wanted to remind the off-spinner that he had come prepared and done his homework. South Africa finished the day on 385 for 8, 117 runs behind India's first-innings score.

AS IT HAPPENED

But at 63 for 4, India was threatening to force the Proteas to face their inner demons, the haunting memories from four years ago, when spin had proved to be their undoing. And with Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja extracting bounce and turn from the pitch, it looked like it was only a matter of time before the batsmen caved in, again.

Elgar stands tall

But Elgar, in the company of captain Faf du Plessis (55, 103b, 8x4, 1x6), fought back with relentless discipline. India largely maintained a deepish mid-on and mid-off, short cover and a deepish cover to go with the catching men for Elgar against Ashwin in the first session.

IND vs SA | DAY TWO REPORT

Both spinners bowled accurate lines, making it a suffocating field and with the pitch slightly on the slower side, timing the ball was proving to be difficult. But Elgar wasn’t shy of going over the in-field, clearing the rope thrice in the morning session, twice against Jadeja in the same over.

Learning lessons

At the other end, du Plessis displayed conviction. He averaged less than nine the last time South Africa played a Test series here, and the 35-year-old admitted, during the pre-match press conference, that “he needed to get better from a defensive technical point of view, to adapt to play in tough conditions.”

The course-correction was on display as du Plessis countered Virat Kohli’s aggressive field setting with a positive mindset. He employed the sweep effectively throughout his innings and manoeuvred the ball into gaps to ensure he was not on strike for long periods.

Enterprising display: Quinton de Kock plays the reverse-sweep en route to his 111. Photo: K. R. Deepak

 

He brought up his fifty with a brace off Mohammed Shami before being caught at leg-slip, in a rather tame fashion, off Ashwin’s bowling. Du Plessis added 115 for the fifth wicket with Elgar.

De Kock forces pace

Meanwhile, new batsman Quinton de Kock, after two successive boundaries off Ashwin in the 67th over, hit Jadeja for a six and a four to make his intentions clear. He didn’t just hang about at the crease but forced the pace with some attractive strokeplay to bring up his 50 off 79 balls.

The wicketkeeper-batsman accelerated after India took the new ball in the 80th over — collecting a flurry of boundaries off Ashwin and India’s fifth bowler, Hanuma Vihari — to blunt the opposition attack by cobbling together a 164-run stand for the sixth wicket with Elgar.

Elgar eventually became Jadeja’s 200th Test wicket, caught in the deep by Cheteshwar Pujara for a brilliant 160. But de Kock continued the onslaught, racking up his hundred with a flat six over long-off to cap off today’s spirited riposte. He was clean bowled by Ashwin — who picked up a five-for — for 111 at the fag end of the day’s play.