A masterful display of control and discipline from Virat Kohli and a mediocre effort from the rest of the Indian summed up India’s batting on Day One of the third and series-deciding Test at Newlands, Cape Town, on Tuesday.
SCORECARD | AS IT HAPPENED
On a day when the sun was out for most of the time and wind blew from across the Atlantic, watching cricket might have been blissful. Walking out there to face the new ball and not getting distracted by the uneven bounce or by the captivating sight of the Table Mountains, however, was going to be another challenge altogether.
India won the toss and took the challenge head on, thrilled at the prospect of bowling last on this pitch as the Test goes on. The decision should have put the visitors in a far better position by the end of the day than what the eventual score read – 223 all out in 77.3 overs.
Barring Kohli’s 201-ball 79, that included 12 fours and a six, and Cheteshwar Pujara‘s relatively quicker 43 off 77 balls – a knock that should’ve prolonged but ended abruptly, none of the other Indian batters managed to stick around.
By the time India were done, South Africa found themselves left with 10-odd overs before stumps, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav sharing the new ball.
A bit of luck aided Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram right at the beginning but that did not last long.
Just the fourth delivery of Bumrah’s second over got a thick edge of Elgar’s bat, flew to first slip and South Africa lost their best batsman even before they could settle down. The hosts sent a night watchman next. A bit of control that India may have lost after electing to bat first was soon retained.
Earlier in the day, openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal began on a cautious note but returned with scores of 12 and 15, thanks to some great line from Duanne Olivier and Kagiso Rabada.
Cheteshwar Pujara, at No. 3, tried his hand at keeping the momentum going and initially succeeded too – one doesn’t always get to see the scoreboard reading Pujara 47 of 77 balls, Kohli 79 off 201 balls – but the No. 3 fell to a peach of a delivery from Marco Jansen, one that hit the seam and enticingly moved away.
The onus was then on Kohli – the man looking to rid himself of those outside-the-off horrors – to stabilize the middle-order. At No. 5, Ajinkya Rahane failed again, nicking Rabada to the ‘keeper, calling for a review, and hoping against hope he had survived.
In Pics: Kohli resolute as South Africa claim first day honours in third Test
<p>Indian captain Virat Kohli made a resolute 79 but bowlers dominated the first day of the series-deciding third Test against South Africa at Newlands on Tuesday. (Reuters Photo)</p>
At No. 6, Rishabh Pant showed some restraint, barring on occasions when he couldn’t resist swing that bat. In fact, while he was at the crease, a 51run stand between him and Kohli for the fifth wicket began to make it appear like the session and the day were running away from the hosts.
Jansen struck again, luring Pant with a bit of bounce and got his way. R Ashwin failed to hang on too.
Trundling his way past a very patient 50, Kohli kept falling short of partners in his quest to get to a century that’s been missing for a while now. The knock should give the India captain the confidence he needs at this juncture to get back to the space where he belongs.