After bundling out South Africa for 335, India batted cautiously, but the lack of a calculative approach meant that the team lost five wickets while scoring 183 by the end of the day. While Virat Kohli was steady at one side, scoring 85*, he got ample support from Hardik Pandya in the last session.
Brief Scores: South Africa 335 (Aiden Markram 94, Hashim Amla 82; R Ashwin 4-113, Ishant Sharma 3-46) lead India 183/5 (Virat Kohli 85*; Murali Vijay 46; Lungi Ngidi 1/26, Kagiso Rabada 1/33) by 152 runs.
Ishant Sharma’s day to shine
Since his Test debut in 2007, Ishant Sharma has been subjected to a lot of unwarranted criticism and that has often transformed into cruel ridicule. The 29-year-old’s numbers are not earth-shattering, but numbers seldom tell the full story. No numbers will say how many times he brought India back in the 2014-15 Australia series or how much many yards he has put in the sweltering conditions of a flat pitch. Ishant Sharma has always been ridiculed and there is no justifiable reason for it.
However, his performance on Day 2 of the Centurion Test illustrated why he has always been rated so highly by former cricketers ever since his young days. He was far more consistent on the second morning
Centurion or Chennai?
Teams have always struggled to counter Highveld’s pace and bounce and that can be understood from the fact that the hosts have an eye-catching 17-2 win-loss record in Tests and an Asian team is yet to win a single game at the venue. The wicket has never been famous for its turn, but when Ashwin found some turn form the ball number one in the first innings, he knew it was the best chance for him to showcase his ability away from home.
However, Ashwin, the fastest bowler to take 300 Test wickets, called up earlier than anticipated to help India back in the game and bowled with a touch of belief as well. Building on his three-wicket haul on Day 1, Ashwin persisted with his line and managed to get sufficient amount of turn on Day 2. 94% of his deliveries that he pitched were at good length area and only 14 of his 233 balls were at other lengths. With fast bowlers getting surprisingly little purchase in Centurion, Ashwin was forced into bowling long spells as well and that allowed him to formulate different ideas on a track with slow spin. Although he ended up with four wickets to his name, as many as four edges were dropped off his balls and that could have been an entirely different story.
Almost unsurprisingly, South Africa also opened the bowling with Keshav Maharaj, who despite not being a great turner of the ball, was able to put pressure on the Indian team and had Murali Vijay’s wicket to show under his name.
Rohit’s indecisive footwork costs him his wicket once again
Ajinkya Rahane has always been the batsman who thrives on bouncier surfaces, but he was curiously left out of the team in the first two Tests according to the criterion of his “recent form”. There were calls questioning the inclusion of his fellow Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma and that’s why the sword of Damocles was always on Rohit’s head to perform. While his struggle in Cape Town was discounted for the fact that there were excessive swings on offer, he failed to make that count in Centurion as well and looked indecisive with his footwork all throughout his stay in the middle.
While facing Maharaj, he looked all at sea and wasn’t able to encounter his arm balls at all. However, it was expected of him to counter pacers well, it took just one Rabada spell to end his brief stay at the crease. After a chain of away-swingers, the pacer got one to jag back into the right-hander, but instead of playing it away from his body, Rohit’s bat came at an angle and he played across the line to be struck in front of off. That was clearly frustrating for Kohli and obviously should have been for Rohit as well. Playing a pacer like Rabada in South Africa needs patience and a calculative approach and it appears, Rohit needs to learn that sooner than later.