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South Africa vs India, 2nd Test Day 4: Elgar guides South Africa to a comfortable win

On the lookout for their maiden Test series win in South Africa, India and the hosts shared the honours on the opening day of the second Test.

After breaching the Proteas’ fortress at the Centurion in the first Test, India's captain Virat Kohli was forced to sit out this game due to an upper back spasm.

Stand-in skipper KL Rahul won the toss and opted to bat first. Here’s how the day progressed:

Rahul-Mayank provide solid start

Batting first seemed the obvious option on a pitch which still had some moisture from the previous day’s rain, which slowed the pitch initially. However, with it being a bright and sunny day, batting was expected to get tougher as the day went on.

For the second Test running, old buddies KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal gave India a good start in the first hour of play.

The South African pacers - Kagiso Rabada and the returning Duanne Olivier, who shared the new ball - went fuller in search of some swing and Mayank especially was severe, creaming several drives through cover and extra cover.

Rahul was more restrained, at one stage making 1 off 25 balls, but he did not look troubled and displayed his tenacity and ability to play inside the line.

Olivier’s double-wicket burst

After safely negotiating the first hour, where India had moved to 36-0 in 14 overs, the first ball after drinks brought about the breakthrough South Africa were looking for.

Marco Jansen angled one across Mayank and the opener looked to drive on the up but it was too close to the stumps and the extra bounce from Jansen meant that it took his edge through to keeper Kyle Verreyne.

Cheteshwar Pujara walked in at no. 3 and took time to settle in. He was troubled by the variable bounce though, as he awkwardly fended off short balls, two of which evaded close-in fielders.

The short ball did finally get him. Duanne Olivier, who had sprayed it around a little, got one to rise up from a good length and Pujara, surprised by the bounce, could only edge it off the splice of the bat to Temba Bavuma at gully.

In walked Ajinkya Rahane at no. 4 and immediately edged one wide outside off to third slip, where Keegan Petersen completed a simple catch. It was Olivier’s 50th Test wicket.

The double blow put South Africa in a position of strength just before lunch.

Lower order and Rahul steady India

Hanuma Vihari - who came in for Virat Kohli - and skipper Rahul then ensured India did not lose any more wickets before lunch.

The duo grafted in the second session, dealing with the bounce well and were severe on balls that were short and wide or overpitched, with even Rahul opening up once he had sized up the pitch to his satisfaction.

Vihari was then undone by a fantastic catch from Rassie van der Dussen at short leg. Rabada steamed in and bowled a pacy short delivery which Vihari tried to fend away but could only inside edge it and van der Dussen took it one-handed diving to his left.

Rahul soon completed a well-compiled 50. However, in the very next over he tried to hook one that did not rise as much as he expected and holed out to Rabada at fine leg, leaving India in a potentially perilous 116-5.

Ravichandran Ashwin, who attacked with intent, and Rishabh Pant put on a quick and invaluable 30-run partnership to ensure India walked into tea at 146-5.

Soon in the third session, Pant was dismissed after a ball from Jansen jagged in late off the seam. Shardul Thakur fell soon after and Ashwin continued with his attacking shots but fell after trying one shot too many, unsuccessfully ramping a short ball to gully.

A late cameo from new vice-captain Jasprit Bumrah took India past 200 and they were eventually dismissed for 202.

Shami strikes early

As has become the norm these days, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami started off in fine fashion with the new ball, attacking the stumps, finding prodigious swing and threatening both edges.

Shami got the first wicket, getting one to come back in off the seam, which caught Aiden Markram plumb in front. This was the third time in the series that Shami had dismissed Markram.

Bumrah was equally threatening from the other end, having a close shout against no. 3 Keegan Petersen.

After a probing spell, Bumrah did get Petersen to edge a cut shot but Pant was unable to hold on to a tough, one-handed chance that came in way above his head.

First change bowler Mohammad Siraj continued the good work of the new ball bowlers but there was some concern for India after he pulled out of his delivery stride clutching his hamstring and walked off straight off the field without waiting for assistance from physio Nitin Patel.

South Africa ended the day at 35-1 and Petersen and captain Dean Elgar will have to work hard equally tomorrow morning to take the Proteas close to India’s total.

The second Test between India and South Africa was tantalisingly poised at the end of Day 2 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg after some pulsating action between the bat and ball. 

South Africa captain Dean Elgar and no. 3 Keegan Petersen began the day at 35-1 after seeing out a spell of hostile fast bowling the previous evening. 

Here’s how Day 2 panned out: 

Shardul’s triple strike rocks the Proteas 

Elgar and Petersen began from where they left off, defending resolutely and leaving balls outside off stump. 

Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were typically incisive in the morning, with the latter even getting one to come back in a big way, which just sailed over Petersen’s stumps. 

However, no wickets were forthcoming as the Proteas batters rode their luck and played a few shots when the loose balls came. Until Shardul Thakur was brought into the attack. 

In just his second over, Shardul got a delivery to move away from Elgar, who edged it behind to Rishabh Pant, bringing the South Africa captain’s long vigil to an end and breaking a frustrating partnership for India. 

Keegan Petersen soon brought up his first Test 50 but Shardul struck again. The pacer got Petersen driving away from his body and the edge was snaffled by Mayank Agarwal at second slip. 

After Rassie van der Dussen successfully reviewed a caught behind, he was powerless to stop a Shardul delivery from kicking up, taking his inside edge and just about carrying to Pant right before lunch. 

India were finally back in the game! 

Bavuma-Verreyne steady South Africa 

Post lunch, wicket-keeper Kyle Verreyne and Temba Bavuma stitched together a patient 60-run partnership. 

Both batsmen took their time to assess the pitch and did not play too many shots, preventing many opportunities for the Indian bowlers. However, Verreyne looked vulnerable to the incoming delivery, with his slightly open stance and tendency to play cross-batted shots. 

And it was Shardul Thakur who struck again for India. A cross-seam delivery came back in sharply, which caught Verreyne in front. 

Shardul then removed the dangerous Bavuma as the latter walked down the track and edged a delivery to his left, which Pant snapped up with a good dive. 

It gave Shardul Thakur his first five-wicket haul in Tests. 

Shardul, Shami and Bumrah then cleaned up the tail but not before cameos from Keshav Maharaj and Marco Jansen gave South Africa a crucial 27-run lead. 

Shardul ended with figures of 7-61. It was the best performance by an Indian male in South Africa and also the best figures for an Indian man against South Africa across all Tests. 

India move into the lead 

India’s openers, skipper KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal started their second innings with a flourish. Mayank brought out his signature drives while Rahul also cut one over the slips to signal his intent. 

After a three-over opening burst each with the new ball for Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier, left-armer Jansen broke through for South Africa in his first over. 

After bringing a few balls into Rahul while angling it across, Jansen got one to move away slightly and Rahul poked at it, with the edge just carrying to Aiden Markram at second slip. 

Mayank fell soon after. He misread an incoming delivery from Olivier and shouldered arms and was caught plumb in front, with the ball hitting his back leg. 

The experienced Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane saw out the rest of the day as India ended on 85-2, with a lead of 58. 

India will look to bat as long as possible on Day 3 - the entire day if possible - and set South Africa a target of around 250 and above.

After limiting South Africa’s lead to just 27 runs in the first innings, India faced a shaky start, losing KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal towards the end of Day 2.

Seasoned campaigners Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane stuck around for the remainder of the second day and continued India’s batting on the third.  

Here’s how Day 3 played out at the Wanderers Stadium.

Pujara & Rahane lay foundations

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane carried the momentum from the second day and continued to play with an attacking mindset, putting India firmly in the driver’s seat.

Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi opened the bowling for the hosts but didn’t find any success against the experienced Indian duo, who were striking at almost run-a-ball.

The Pujara-Rahane partnership continued to flourish even after Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier were brought into the attack.

Just eight overs into the day, India extended the lead to 100 as Pujara and Rahane registered brisk fifties.

Rabada strikes back

Just when it looked like India were cruising to a big lead, Kagiso Rabada gave South Africa the much-needed breakthrough and restored balance in the match.

First, Rahane nicked an away-moving delivery to give Verreynne an easy catch behind the stumps and an over later, Pujara fell prey to an inswinger hitting straight on his pad.

New batter Rishabh Pant also threw his wicket away without adding any runs on the board. He went down the pitch to smack it out of the park but ended up edging it to the keeper as India went from 155-2 to 167-5 in a space of six overs.

Ravichandran Ashwin also could not repeat his heroics from the first innings and was out just before lunch, leaving India at 188/6, with a lead of 161.

Vihari, Shardul steady India’s boat

Following the impressive spell by Rabada, Hanuma Vihari and last innings’ hero Shardul Thakur stitched a 41-run partnership to put India back into the running.

While Vihari anchored the innings, Thakur opted for an aggressive approach, smacking five fours and a six on his way to 28 off just 24.

Although Vihari remained unbeaten with a gritty 40, the Indian tail provided little resistance to the South Africa pacers.

Rabada, Jansen and Ngidi picked up three wickets each as India ended at 266, setting South Africa a fighting target of 240.

South Africa take control

South African openers Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar came out swinging for the final time in this Test and added 47 runs in just under 10 overs, laced with seven boundaries.

However, Shardul Thakur snapped the flying partnership, dismissing Markram after two very close calls in the same over. The slightly moving ball hit plumb on Markram’s back pad to break the opening stand.

But the hosts kept the scoreboard ticking, led by Dean Elgar, who survived multiple body blows from the Indian battery and scored a steely 46 off 121.

South Africa ended the enthralling day at 118/2, needing 122 runs to win with two days remaining.

India have some work to do on Day 4 if they are to win their first Test series on South African soil. But we have seen wickets have fallen in bundles in this Test so maybe all India need is one breakthrough to turn the game around.

India’s wait for winning their first Test series in South Africa got longer after captain Dean Elgar steered the home team to a seven-wicket victory and levelled the series 1-1. 

The visitors did not have the best of outings with the bat at the Wanderers whereas, South Africa fought through the rampaging Indian pace battery to pick up the win on the fourth day. 

Here’s how South Africa scripted history on a rain-affected Day 4:  

Elgar, Russen show class 

After rains took away more than half of Day 4, the skies cleared up and the super soppers did the remaining work to make sure there was some action in the final session.

Skipper Dean Elgar continued from where he left off yesterday, showing great composure to reach a well-crafted fifty and bring the required runs down to 100.

On the other end, Rassie van der Dussen also looked threatening, smacking boundaries at every loose ball, and picking up the free singles to keep the scoreboard ticking.

For India, the trio of Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur did not find much success despite some disciplined bowling as the Proteas played no risky shots.  Moreover, the wet ball didn’t help the Indians’ cause as their attempt to utilise the swing bore no fruit. 

Shami breaks through

India finally found a way past the Elgar-Dussen partnership when Shami scalped Dussen with a moving delivery.

The South African tried to defend the away-moving ball but could only get an outside edge. Pujara collected it easily at first slip to send van der Dussen back for 40.

India had another chance just two overs later, but Shardul Thakur could not hold on to a catch off his own bowling and gave Tenda Bavuma a lifeline. India only had 65 runs to defend and, with every passing over, South Africa inched closer to victory.

Steely Elgar gets the job done

The final 40 runs came in quickly and Dean Elgar stuck through till the end to guide his team to their first win over India at the Wanderers.

After being on the crease for 309 minutes, facing 188 balls and surviving several blows to the body, Elgar remained unbeaten on 96. The skipper found great support from Tenda Bavuma, who scored 23 off 45.

South Africa chased 240 runs with seven wickets in hand to set up the series finale at Newlands next week. 

Although India lost the match, Shardul Thakur’s seven-wicket haul and the solid batting by Ashwin in the first innings, followed by Pujara and Rahane coming back to form in the second were some of the positives for Team India. 

The third Test begins on January 11 and India will be aiming to put on a much better performance, especially with the bat to make sure the record books are rewritten.