There’s a storm brewing over Johannesburg. And there’s one brewing at the Bullring too. As Thursday’s weather forecast suggests 48% chance of thunderstorms, 50 is the catchword at the Wanderers. With two days to go, the Test match couldn’t have been more tantalizingly poised with South Africa refusing to concede ground against a hungry Indian team desperate to notch up a historic series win.
If the second day was about India’s ability to counter punch, Wednesday saw South Africa’s resilience and desperation to make a match of it after being set a daunting 240 to level the series.
SCORECARD | AS IT HAPPENED
The pitch is difficult to bat on, there’s variable bounce, and the Indian pace attack has the wherewithal to run through sides. Add to that the wily Ravichandran Ashwin, who loves bounce in the track.
The South African batting, too, doesn’t have an AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla or Faf du Plessis, who are pros when it comes to dealing with adversity. Most of the players are still learning their ropes in Test cricket under a gutsy captain Dean Elgar.
Ashwin said the other day Elgar would look to get out all the time and won’t get out and that’s the beauty of his game. The left-hander did just that through the three hours that he batted on Wednesday. He was hit on his body quite a few times by the Indian pacers, played and missed too, but showed the guts to battle on.
Knowing that his wicket is central to this intriguing drama, he was ready to get behind the line and take those blows to keep Proteas in the game.
While his opening partner Aiden Markram (31) looked good till he lasted, young Keegan Petersen (28) seemed the more dangerous player who could take the game away from India. But Ashwin had him at a crucial moment, leg-before to one that turned quite a bit, that put South Africa under pressure.
No. 4 Rassie van der Hussen‘s poor technique against spin caused quite a bit of laughter among India’s close-in fielders, but the right-hander somehow found a way to frustrate the Indian bowlers.
South Africa, though, were helped by the fact that Mohammed Siraj, who pulled a hamstring on the first day, wasn’t at his fittest. The four overs that he bowled was more about India’s desperation to not concede a psychological edge to South Africa than actually threatening a wicket. By stumps, Elgar (46 batting) and Van der Dussen (11 batting) had taken South Africa to 118-2, two shy off the halfway mark.
South Africa, though, could have been chasing much lesser had Ajinkya Rahane (58) and Cheteshwar Pujara (53) not launched a superb counter-attack in the morning session. They were not intimidated by the short ball or the fact that their careers could be on the line and put up 111 runs for the third wicket which put India on solid ground.
Both got out in quick succession, but the Indian tail doesn’t give up without a fight these days. While Hanuma Vihari (40 n.o.) dealt the South African pacers with a degree of calmness, the likes of Shardul Thakur and Jasprit Bumrah were all about fighting fire with fire. They were not shy of taking on the short ball or having a verbal altercation with left-arm pacer Marco Jansen who was targetting Bumrah’s body.
In Pics: Elgar defies Indian bowlers as South Africa launch tough chase in second Test
<p>South African captain Dean Elgar defied a hostile Indian bowling attack on a difficult pitch to lead his team’s quest for a series-levelling win on the third day of the second Test at the Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday. (AFP Photo)</p>
The tension is bound to spill into fourth day’s action as well as India go for the kill and South Africa look to keep their shores safe from this almighty invasion.