JOHANNESBURG - South Africa laboured through the afternoon session stretching their lead past 250 on the fourth day of the second Test against India on Tuesday.
At tea, the home team was on 230/7, having scored just 57 runs in 27 overs in the middle session, with their lead now 258. Faf du Plessis has blocked his ways to 37 scoring just 25 runs in the afternoon, while Kagiso Rabada has yet to score.
South Africa’s tactic through the middle session seemed to be crease occupation and allowing the very dry surface to deteriorate further. The bounce has become inconsistent throughout the day; in the first session AB de Villiers was dismissed by one that bounced more than he’d anticipated, a number of balls have also kept low, while off-spinner Ravi Ashwin has gotten a couple to spin and bounce out of the rough to the left-hand batsmen at the River End.
It was a grinding session, perhaps one the South Africans will attach one of their favourite phrases too - "an investment period" - as they sought to play for time.
History here appears to be on South Africa’s side. The highest fourth innings chase at this ground came in 2000, when England made 251/8 to win in the infamous "leather jacket Test". On that occasion Hansie Cronje, succumbed to sartorial temptation and forfeited an innings, allowing Nasser Hussain’s English team a "win" on the final afternoon.
Just two wickets fell in the afternoon session on Tuesday. Vernon Philander, having supported his captain grimly for over two hours, played a loose pull stright to square leg off Ishant Sharma after making 26. Du Plessis was not pleased with Philander’s choice of shot, thumping his bat angrily into the pitch at the non-striker’s end.
Keshav Maharaj was tempted by one that left him off the surface, and he edged to wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel, given the gloveman his third catch of the innings.
Those have been Ishant’s only two wickets of the innings, but strangely Mohammed Shami who claimed three wickets in the first session, bowled just one over after lunch.