The only bright spot on an otherwise gloomy morning for the tourists was a half-century for skipper Faf du Plessis. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa continued to struggle as the second Test headed towards the halfway stage in Pune on Saturday, going into lunch on 136/6 trailing India by 465 runs. 

The only bright spot on an otherwise gloomy morning for the tourists was a half-century for skipper Faf du Plessis, the 21st of his career. At lunch Du Plessis was not out on 52 with Senuran Muthusamy alongside him on 6.

Nightwatchman Anrich Nortje and Theunis de Bruyn had resumed on 36/3, but both were dismissed within half an hour of the resumption. Nortje, on debut, edged Mohammed Shami to Virat Kohli at third slip having been set up the ball before by a bouncer. 

De Bruyn once more flattered only to deceive, wasting an excellent start. He’d looked very comfortable against all the Indian seamers, both in the last hour of Friday’s play and then again in the first few overs of the third day.

He drove well, and clipped a couple of shots of his legs through the leg side too, and looked as if he was set for a big innings. 

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And then he played a poor shot, attempting to drive Umesh Yadav, De Bruyn was neither forward nor back and just threw his hands at the ball, edging behind, where Indian wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha, took a good catch diving to his right.

De Bruyn made 30, hitting six fours, but having gotten a start he really should have gone onto to score something bigger, not just for the team, but his own self-belief.

Du Plessis, who’s position in the batting order has come under scrutiny, then played very well, driving purposefully against the seam bowlers, while he adopted his favourite sweep shot against the spinners. He shared a partnership of 75 with Quinton de Kock, who made a lively 31, featuring some lovely shots through the off-side, but he was undone by a peach from Ravi Ashwin, 15 minutes before lunch.

Ashwin got the ball to drift into the left-hander, then it pitched and spun sharply passed the outside edge of De Kock’s bat, a clipped the top of off-stump. 

There will continue to be question marks about South Africa’s batting order, with some commentators and ex-players calling for Du Plessis and De Kock to move up the order but until crucial positions like the Director of Cricket and the Team Director are filled on a permanent basis, those questions are largely irrelevant. Only once those positions are permanently filled will long term decisions actually be taken and implemented. 

* Meanwhile Keshav Maharaj’s status in the match remains unknown. The left-arm spinner went for scans on his right should on Friday after he suffered an injurying diving for the ball off his own bowling. Those initial scans proved inconclusive and he will have a second set of scans later on Saturday.



The Star

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