JOHANNESBURG – India established a sizable lead at tea on the third day of this final Sunfoil Test against South Africa on Friday, ignoring concerns about the pitch in the process.
The tourists went into the interval on 199/6, with Ajinkya Rahane on 46 and Bhuvneshwar Kumar on 23. They lead by 192 runs.
For the second time on Friday, umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould halted play midway through the afternoon session for an animated discussion while staring at an area on the pitch – short of a good length – from which the ball had bounced viciously, hitting Kumar on the forearm.
The surface has been extremely challenging for batting, the bounce off a good length disconcerting, with Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Rahane, Hardik Pandya and Kumar all receiving treatment after being struck on the hand.
Following the discussion between the official, Kohli was seen from the dressing room signalling to his players to stay in the middle, a sign he wasn’t thinking of abandoning the match. And why would he?
India are in a very dominant position, with Rahane playing a superb innings that’s added further to the mystery of why he wasn’t picked for the first two Tests.
He has played a couple of exquisite drives, quite an achievement on this pitch.
That India managed to score 99 runs in the session is indicative of how well they’ve played but also how poorly South Africa bowled.
Only Kagiso Rabada in a six-over spell, in which he picked up the wickets of Kohli and Pandya, has utilised the surface effectively.
Kohli’s innings of 41 was another excellent performance, belying the critics who claim he can only play on flat tracks at home.
His defence was solid, and when he chose to attack, he did so with unerring accuracy and style.
It took a gem from Rabada to remove him, a delivery that appeared to jag back off a crack, knocking back the Indian captain’s off-stump.
Pandya was removed by a superb catch by Rabada off his own bowling for just four, and that stage, the Proteas would have believed they were still well within control of the game.
However, two dropped catches within five balls – giving lives to both Kumar and Rahane – allowed the tourists to maintain the ascendancy.
Kumar was dropped by Dean Elgar at gully -another chance he’s let slip this summer in that area – on 15, following which Rahane was missed on the point boundary by Andile Phehlukwayo on 38.
The Indian pair’s partnership is currently 51, and it is effectively winning the game for their team.