SA vs IND: Struggling India staring at steep chase

Lungisani Ngidi removed K.L. Rahul (4) and Virat Kohli (5) to leave India reeling at 35/3 at the end of Day Four; it needs 253 more runs to win the Test.

South African bowler Lungi Ngidi (left) celebrates the dismissal of Indian batsman and captain Virat Kohli (R) during the fourth day of the second Test cricket match between South Africa and India in Centurion.   -  AFP

You look beyond the SuperSport Park here and see momentum all around. On one side is an elevated railway line on which trains streak through to Johannesburg and back. And straight ahead is a busy freeway with an endless stream of cars.

But then, the Indian team, chasing 287 to win the second Test, was without any driving force, slumping to 35 for three at stumps on day four.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

 

On a pitch of uneven bounce – the odd delivery shot through or climbed from a length —  Murali Vijay was bowled by a Kagiso Rabada off-cutter that kept low.

The new sensation, the big, strong and pacy Lungi Ngidi soon got into the act, dismissing K.L. Rahul who sliced a short delivery into backward point’s hands.

Then Ngidi delivered the heavyweight punch. Indian captain and the batting mainstay Virat Kohli, playing across to a delivery angled in a staying a shade low, was adjudged leg-before.

When India lost the crucial wicket of Virat Kohli...

  In the first session, the impressive Mohammed Shami, scalping four, kept India in the match after AB de Villiers (80) and the left-handed Dean Elgar (61) were threatening to take the game away.

When Shami finds his rhythm, he makes engaging viewing — steaming in, his wrist and seam position upright and releasing from a semi-side on position. Shami bowled an off-stump line; there was speed, swing and seam movement. He utilised the angles capably by delivering close to the stumps and going wide off the crease.

On this rather dry surface, there was a hint of reverse swing for him as well. And he also got a few deliveries to rise awkwardly. De Villiers fell to a wicked one on the off-stump. The ball lifted from a length, came into the batsman even as he sought to glide it, and kissed the glove.

And Shami took out the well set Elgar when he pulled a short delivery to Rahul at deep square-leg.

Shami continued to strike. Quinton de Kock seemed in a hurry to buy ticket for the next movie show. He kept fishing outside off at Shami and finally nicked one playing away from his body.

From 144 for two, South Africa had slumped to 163 for five. The Indians were back in the hunt.

Then, South African skipper Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander defied the Indian attack with dogged batting under pressure. There was a phase when the two gathered just 14 runs in 11 overs bowled between Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya who kept pegging away at short of a good length.

It was battle of attrition and the partnership did leave India frustrated before Philander pulled Ishant into square-leg’s hands.    

Stumps fly as Murali Vijay is bowled by South Africa's Kagiso Rabada.   -  AFP

 

The pugnacious du Plessis, once again, following his first innings 63, rallied with the tail. The skipper played his strokes too in the later stages of the innings, swinging Shami, pulling Bumrah and lofting Pandya over covers.

Bumrah’s return catch of instinct rather than design ended du Plessis’ 141-ball 48. Ishant was typically tireless and the delivery that seamed and bounced to find Keshav Maharaj’s edge was a beauty.

Ashwin, varying trajectory, displaying variety, and extracting turn, bowled well without luck.

Earlier in the day, AB de Villiers showcased his gifts. The manner in which he picked the length earlier than most and got into position underlined his class.

He was so well balanced at the time of execution – the transfer of weight to the front or the back leg was done with minimum fuss and maximum effectiveness.

The effervescent de Villiers and left-handed opener Dean Elgar, a limited batsman who battles hard, added 141 crucial runs for the third wicket – the back-bone of the innings really.

South Africa, eventually, was bowled out for 258. Yet, the Indians would feel that they gave away 50 runs too many; those sharp chances needed to be held.

Now, India has a mountain to climb on day five.

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