India bowlers need to inject regular breakthroughs post lunch    AFP
India bowlers need to inject regular breakthroughs post lunch AFP

“It is as good as scoring 300 on a normal pitch. It is certainly one of the toughest pitches I have batted on. It was much tougher than one used for the first Test in Cape Town. Overall we batted well. The runs on the board are sufficient and we can bowl them out,” stated a confident (or over-optimistic) Cheteshwar Pujara after Day One of the third Test.

Cut to reality. India haven’t (convincingly) walked the talk yet after end of Day Two’s first session. South Africa have reached 81 for 3, and trail by 106 runs. The day commenced with loads of edges and misses. Dean Elgar continued to face difficulties initially, before falling for 4 (off 40 balls). The left-hander looked unsure against Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and perished soon.

Since then, Kagiso Rabada and Hashim Amla derailed India’s progress. Rabada was beaten more often than not, outside off stump, but looked undeterred. His intent was praise worthy, and stuck around to add 64 runs with Amla for the third wicket.

Before lunch, Ishant Sharma got rid of Rabada. It was short of a length delivery in the middle, which moved a bit, and Rabada edged one trying to defend the ball. Ajinkya Rahane mysteriously placed at gully earlier took a clean catch at third slip. Virat Kohli removed Bhuvneshwar from the other end, and brought in Hardik Pandya for the last over before the break. Why not Bhuvneshwar in front of AB de Villiers? Why make him settle?

Kohli may himself not be able to answer these questions. Just like no one knows why Bhuvneshwar was dropped from the Centurion Test.

Brief scores

India 187 all-out (Cheteshwar Pujara 50, Virat Kohli 54, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 30; Kagiso Rabada 3 for 39, Vernon Philander 2 for 31, Morne Morkel 2 for 47) lead South Africa 81 for 3 (Kagiso Rabada 30, Hashim Amla 32*; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 2 for 17, Ishant Sharma 1 for 20) by 106 runs.