South Africa reached 78/0 at lunch on the opening day of the second Sunfoil Test match against India here on Saturday, with home town boy – one of seven in the Proteas’s starting eleven – Aiden Markram making a well made half-century.
Markram and fellow opener, Dean Elgar found themselves batting on a pitch that had far fewer demons than was the case at Newlands last week, with the surface devoid of green grass. There was plenty of brown grass, and what part that plays in the coming days, in what are forecast to be hot temperatures, remains to be seen.
That was not what concerned the South African opening pair however – getting through that first session unscathed was all that matters and in that regard, it was a job very well done by Markram and Elgar.
Of the two, Markram was the more fluent, driving deliciously off front and back foot and when the Indian bowlers dropped short, he pulled powerfully.
Elgar on the other struggled; he was beaten a number of times outside the off-stump, barely found the middle of the bat in the first hour and was trapped in a corner by Ishant Sharma who bowled a wonderfully disciplined spell from the West Lane End.
Ishant was one of three changes to India’s starting eleven from the side that lost in Cape Town last week. He surprisingly replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who’d picked up three wickets in three overs to start the Newlands Test, on account, according to Indian skipper Virat Kohli of Ishant’s ability to take greater advantage of the extra bounce here.
KL Rahul coming in for Shikhar Dhawan was an obvious change given the latter’s problems against the short ball, while Parthiv Patel was selected in place of Wriddhiman Saha, who according to Kohli damaged a hamstring before play.
There was just one enforced change to the South African team with Lungi Ngidi given his Test debut in place of Dale Steyn and becoming the 99th Protea post isolation.
Markram finished the first session unbeaten on 51, that included nine, mostly crisply struck, fours. Elgar, survived a close chance on 14 when he hooked Jasprit Bumrah over Murali Vijay’s head at deep backward square leg. Kohli also used up one of India’s reviews when he asked for a caught behind chance to be checked by the TV official off Ravi Ashwin’s bowler 15 minutes before the break, but the snickometer indicated that the edge wasn’t found. Elgar lunched on 26 not out.