By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Dec 21, 2013
India have set South Africa a target of 458 on Day Four of the first Test against South Africa at Johannesburg. Cheteshwar Pujara‘s sparkling 153 and Virat Kohli‘s 96 helped India score 421 in the second innings and with over a day to go, the tourists have enough time to go for a victory.
India commenced their second innings on the third morning after bowling South Africa out for 244 and thereby taking a 36-run lead. Early on, the South African fast-bowlers were on song and were purchasing good movement off the surface. There was also some variable bounce on offer. Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed early as he edged one outside the off-stump from Vernon Philander and was caught by Kallis in the slips.
Murali Vijay and Pujara then dealt with the testing phase. They were leaving anything outside the off-stump and picked any scoring opportunities. As a result, Pujara had a few run-out scares but, he went unscathed. Vijay had fought and battled hard and was looking good for a fifty. However, he edged one down the leg-side off Jacques Kallis and had to walk back for 39.
In walked Kohli, fresh from his ton in the first innings. In tandem, Pujara and Kohli took the attack to the opposition in the third session of Day Three. Pujara in particular was severe on the bowlers. He drove the fuller deliveries and rocked back to the short ones to push them through the off-side. Imran Tahir, the leg-spinner bore the brunt from both batsmen as they freely attacked him to pick some valuable runs.
While Kohli moved to his fifty, Pujara sped away to his ton and dominated the scoring. All the bad balls were put away and South Africa’s attack looked down and out. They had lost Morne Morkel to injury on Day Three, and that did affect them quite a bit as Graeme Smith had to rely on Kallis a lot more. In the last session, India scored 175 runs, with Pujara scoring 96 of them. They finished the day on 284 for two with India 320 ahead.
India weren’t very free flowing on Day Four and their scoring rate was considerably slower than they were the previous evening. Pujara did start off well and struck two boundaries of Steyn through the off-side. He showed good control and saw the ball through well. One was played through fine leg as he opened the face of the bat and then the next was clattered through the covers with typical disdain.
However, South Africa had opted for the new ball and there was more bounce and movement in store. There were a few deliveries that just climbed on the batsmen and a few kept low. Pujara moved to his 150 quite comfortably and it looked like they were building a platform before taking the attack to the bowlers.
Throughout the innings, Pujara had laced the off-side with authoritative strokes. He tried doing the same once Jacques Kallis came into the attack, but only managed an edge to the wicketkeeper. Pujara returned to the pavilion amidst applause as he had put India in a commanding position.
The focus later shifted to Kohli as he neared his second ton of the game. He inched closer and on 96, he tried to shape back to JP Duminy and cut him through the vacant third-man region. However, he only managed to edge it and was dismissed agonisingly short of the milestone. The inconsistent bounce was on show earlier as Rohit Sharma was castled for six when a delivery from Kallis stayed low and bowled him.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni then joined Ajinkya Rahane. Together, they tried to up the ante with a few good strokes. The straight drives down the ground were good statements of intent as the Indian captain would have had one eye on the scoreboard to decide on the declaration.
Rahane was dismissed at the stroke of lunch as Duminy had him defending one. Instead, he edged it and was caught by Graeme Smith. Ravichandran Ashwin joined Dhoni after lunch and also fell quickly. Dhoni did try to up the ante by smashing the ball over the park and had his chances. Philander thought he had him caught behind, but his appeal was turned down. In the same over, Dhoni tried to go over the off-side and was caught in the deep.
There was some excitement in store as Zaheer Khan threw his bat around a touch. The shot that stood out was a six over the covers off Tahir. He also managed to loft Steyn for six over long-off as the Indian dressing room clapped in unison. Tahir had his bit of redemption as he snared the last two wickets.
India 280 (Virat Kohli 119, Ajinkya Rahane 47; Vernon Philander 4 for 61, Morne Morkel 3 for 34) and 421 (Cheteshwar Pujara 153, Virat Kohli 96; Vernon Philander 3 for 68, Jacques Kallis 3 for 68, JP Duminy 2 for 87) lead South Africa 244 (Graeme Smith 68, Vernon Philander 59; Zaheer Khan 4 for 88, Ishant Sharma 4 for 79) by 457 runs.
South Africa vs India — Live on Ten Cricket
Also on cricketcountry.com