© AFP
Murali Vijay had moved into the 90s when play was called off © AFP

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Dec 26, 2013

 

Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay dominated Day One as their partnership kept South Africa at bay. Bad light intervened during the evening session and India finished the day on 181 for one.

 

India won the toss and chose to bat. The tourists made one change to their line-up as Ravindra Jadeja replaced Ravichandran Ashwin. The whole talk about this inclusion has been the fact that Jadeja can bat, plus, they needed someone who could turn the ball away from the South African right-handers. On the other hand, South Africa too brought in their left-arm spinner Robin Peterson in place of Imran Tahir. Morne Morkel made a superb recovery after the ankle injury in the first Test.

 

Early in the day, Shikhar Dhawan looked in fantastic touch. He started off with a lovely straight drive as he merely punched the ball down the ground for four. Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn strayed on Dhawan’s pads a few times and he worked them away with all timing through mid-wicket. Meanwhile, Vijay was quite patient and took his time to get set. He too punished anything that was pitched in his half with all timing.

 

While Steyn and Philander weren’t troubling the Indian batsmen a lot, Morkel came in and purchased bounce immediately. He kept beating the bat and had the combative Dhawan in a bit of trouble. Ultimately, it was that persistence that helped Morkel as Dhawan was dismissed soon after drinks. Morkel changed his angle and came from round the wicket. Dhawan fished at that and edged it to Alviro Petersen at third-slip.

 

Pujara then walked in at No 3 and looked in decent touch. In the company of Vijay, they patiently took on the South African bowlers. Some of the shots that stood out were nice cover-drives for fours as they merely timed it. Jacques Kallis too came into the attack as the crowd cheered him for it is his final Test match.

 

Peterson came onto bowl later and his first ball was a full toss which was dispatched to the mid-wicket boundary by Vijay. He was later driven through the covers for a four by Vijay.

 

Starting the session on 76 for one, India continued to be positive with Pujara and Vijay taking full control of proceedings. They were rarely troubled and took to any opportunity that came their way. That approach was tempered with caution as they were ready to leave anything probing outside the off-stump.

 

The South African bowlers continued to pitch it full and both batsmen were ready to drive. In fact, even if there was width, Vijay was ready to chase it and he got to his half-century in that manner. It was a a good exhibition of application from both batsmen as even Pujara drove with panache. The on-drive off Dale Steyn which went to the boundary was easily the highlight of the session. There was a phase where India slowed down, but they were quick to hit back.

 

Robin Peterson was given the role of containing the batsmen, but they tried to target him a few times. Pujara walked out to him and hit him through mid-wicket for a four. There were a few appeals of his bowling, but they were clearly not out.

 

For Vijay, it is an important innings as there was pressure on him. Many criticised him for his inconsistency, but he has shown good application and technique. The only risk he may have taken is when he chased one outside the off-stump and it flew over the slips for four. Pujara and Vijay moved past their 100-run stand.

 

India have been much more proactive after lunch and in all they scored 87 runs. The conditions remained overcast and the lights had come on by the time tea was taken. Steyn came into bowl as tea approach and troubled Vijay with a brilliant over. Pujara got to his fifty by gracefully driving Peterson through mid-off for a four.

 

After tea, Vijay got off to a good start by smashing Peterson for a boundary through the covers. He later charged at him and lofted him twice for boundaries through the off-side. With those strokes, he moved into the 90s. Steyn was troubling the Indian batsmen and then the light deteriorated. The umpires then decided to call it.

 

Ultimately, the day’s play was called off 40 minutes before the scheduled close. Proceedings will begin half an hour early on Day Two.

 

Brief scores:

 

India 181 for 1 (Murali Vijay 91*, Cheteshwar Pujara 58*; Morne Morkel 1 for 26) vs South Africa.

 

Full Scorecard

 

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