India got off to a poor start at Johannesburg    AFP
India got off to a poor start at Johannesburg AFP

India, electing to bat on a green surface at Johannesburg, are 45 for 2 versus South Africa at lunch. Indian openers failed once again in front of a well-oiled bowling attack. Virat Kohli, getting a reprieve on 11, has led India’s mini-comeback. He remains unbeaten on 24*, along with Cheteshwar Pujara batting at 5*.

KL Rahul was the first to depart. No prizes for guessing who provided the breakthrough Vernon Philander. Playing his 50th Test, Philander pitched it outside off stump, got the ball to nip in sharply, and Rahul went for a half-hearted push. He got an inside edge, and it went to the wicketkeeper. Vijay followed suit. He also perished on a loose shot, driving away from the body.

Vijay’s score in this series: 1, 13, 46, 9, 8.

Since then, it has been a constant struggle from Kohli-Pujara to prevent the fall of wickets. On a green top, the bowlers extracted extra bounce, and kept creating confusion in batsmen’s minds. South Africa need to be credited for maintaining tight lengths. Rabada and Philander got the wickets, whereas Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo kept it economical.

South Africa’s bowling performance can be measured by the amount of deliveries taken by Pujara to open his account. The No. 3 batsman became the second Indian, after Rajesh Chauhan (57), to consume more than fifty balls to get off the mark. Pujara got his first run on his 54th delivery. Kohli, on the other hand, looked confident and determined to keep the bowlers at bay. He commenced his innings with a beautiful cover drive off Rabada.

Run-making has been extremely difficult on a seaming track and against a disciplined bowling line-up. Nonetheless, the two batters have shown the intent and application required to weather the early storm. Can they carry on post lunch?

In other news: Kohli, in his 35th Test, continued to shuffle the playing XI. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ajinkya Rahane replaced Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma respectively.

Brief scores

India 45 for 2 (Murali Vijay 8, Cheteshwar Pujara 5*, Virat Kohli 24*; Vernon Philander 1 for 1, Kagiso Rabada 1 for 15) vs South Africa