India vs South Africa | Talking points from Day Two of Cape Town Test

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India vs South Africa | Talking points from Day Two of Cape Town Test

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Bastab K Parida


As expected, the South African bowlers wrecked havoc in the morning session of the second day before a 99-run partnership between Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar guided India to a decent score of 209. Pandya, though, was successful in sending two openers to the hut to give India some solace.

Brief scores: South Africa 286 (AB de Villiers 65, Faf du Plessis 62; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-87) & 65/2 (Aiden Markram 24; Hardik Pandya 2-17) lead India 209 (Hardik Pandya 93; Kagiso Rabada 3-34, Vernon Philander 3-33) by 142 runs

Same condition, different approach

Yesterday, the Newlands pitch offered enough assistance for bowlers to create many wicket-taking opportunities through most parts of the day, but due to the fast nature of the outfield, the bad balls got no insurance and AB de Villiers proved that runs could be scored easily if you keep your zen and patience. In fact, India conceded two or more boundaries in an over in as many as five overs - 9th, 15th, 16th, 22nd and 26th - with Bhuvneshwar himself losing his discipline in his second spell, However, that was not a one-off incident rather a pattern for India’s bowling on Day 2. 

Instead of trying to pile on some pressure by bowling at a constant line and length, they went on the offensive on most deliveries and Quinton de Kock, took the benefit of the same, played a wide array of shots. Jasprit Bumrah switched to around the wicket despite his natural angle taking the ball away from the left-hander from over the stumps, and was smashed for three successive fours.

However, when South Africa bowled – on Day 1 and 2 – they had the plan B in their mind. While they could have gone all-out to pick wickets as soon as possible, they chose to take the hard way and built pressure on the visitors by keeping a nagging line. Although Rohit and Pujara crossed the much-talked aboutfirst hour of the morning session, with the ball still being relatively new and shiny, the pace quartet spewed venom and didn’t allow India to score runs freely. But at no point did they lose their patience and deviated from the lengths. It, eventually, worked in their favour and hopefully, India will take a leaf out of South Africa’s book in the second innings. 

Hardik Pandya could do no wrong today

“When going gets tough, it is the tough who get going.” When Hardik Pandya came out to bat, not only did he have a huge task of getting India to a respectable total, he knew that it was the perfect opportunity for him to showcase his potential. Though he had to face some jittery moments, he hung in there and punished the occasional bad balls with absolute ease. 

After Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed in an uncharacteristic manner, playing a ball away from his body off the first ball after the interval to give Vernon Philander the opening, the question of "how much" changed to "until when India could drag out their innings". But Pandya, partnering Bhuvneshwar Kumar, defied a fearsome fast-bowling attack to make 93 off 95 balls and made sure that South Africa were in for a surprise.

Although most of the shots in the beginning of the match was audacious ones, he reverted to a more thoughtful version of himself after the advice of Bhuvneshwar from the other end. The exchange of information continued all the way through their 99-run stand for the eighth wicket. If that was not enough of a contribution, the Baroda all-rounder dismissed both openers – Dean Elgar and Aiden Markman - at the stroke of stumps to give India something to build on for Day 3. 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar – a proper all-rounder in the making?

Remember Chennai 2013 in which MS Dhonitonked the Aussie bowlers to submission to score his maiden Test double century? When MSD had lost all hope, Bhuvneshwar Kumar stood tall at one end and helped his then skipper score the majestic double. Remember Lord’s 2014? India's only win in their 13-Test marathon away run in England and Australia in 2014 and 2015 came on the back of a Rahane century on a green top at Lord’s and it was Bhuvneshwar alone who helped the batsman get to the landmark through his sublime defense. 

Bhuvneshwar the bowler has been brilliant of late and it would not be an exaggeration to state that he is one of the finest in the business now. However, his ability to hang in the middle long enough to see his batting partner motor the scoreboard is something that has become his calling card and today’s partnership with Pandya is a perfect example of the same. If he can continue to build on this innings, India can continue playing with the extra bowler in the lineup.

Dale Steyn – a timeless experience

Watching Dale Steyn bowl, as we have come to expect, with that natural aggression is a purist’s delight. He is as complete a package as a fast bowler can hope to be and no other bowler operating in the current age has developed the magnificent control, the late swing, and the movement off the seam that Steyn has. Going by the gold standard that he has set for himself, it is just a shame that his career has been plagued by sheer amount of injuries over the years and nothing was more threatening as the one during the 2016 Perth Test against Australia which meant he had to stay away from international cricket for a period of 14 months. 

However, one would be forgiven if he thought that Steyn would not be his usual brilliant self in the match. But Steyn took his mark and went through his overs with the panache and stamina that had made him a legend of the game. The short ball and the outswinger, the skiddy stop at the end of his follow-through – everything was there. Although his pace was in the late-130s – not something that he would have liked a year or two ago - his rhythm was smooth and his delivery was completely fluid. Nothing has changed. 

As the day went on, it appeared that South Africa had made the right call by opting to play four pacers and trust the veteran to deliver against a formidable opponent. However, their worst dream came true when Steyn sustained tissue damage on his left heel which is likely to rule him out for a duration of 4-6 weeks which means that the pacer might not be able to play any further part in the ongoing Test at Newlands. After his exploits with both bat and ball in the respective first innings of the match, he would be a big miss of the Proteas as the series progresses. 

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