Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

South Africa off to steady start

South Africa off to steady start

It was supposed to be a bouncy pitch full of pace.

It worked. He's been one of the top spinners in world cricket over the last two, three years.

It's understandable that some would fall into that trap given South Africa's expectation of bowler-friendly wickets. It took a referral for the verdict to come, and when it did the Indian team was jubilant.

At stumps, Faf du Plessis was batting on 24, with Keshav Maharaj giving him company on 10 in an unbroken stand that realised 18 runs.

Meanwhile India captain Virat Kohli has surprisingly welcomed the "lively" pitch at SuperSport Park ahead of a must-win second test for his team against South Africa at Centurion on Saturday.

South Africa will hope that Kagiso Rabada will be their Johnson for this coming Test and having taken 13 wickets in a match against England at the venue in January 2016, followed that up with another five against New Zealand in August. Two more wickets fell in the next 14 balls.

Earlier in the week, Aiden Markram was adamant the Proteas batsmen need not be in a negative frame of mind when going out to bat in the Test series against India.

Captain Kohli made several changes in the squad with KL Rahul, Ishant Sharma and Parthiv Patel returning to the side in place of Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Wriddhiman Saha.

The Virat Kohli-led side suffered a 72-run defeat in the first match in Cape Town to go down 0-1 in the ongoing series against South Africa.

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Steyn injured his heel while bowling on day 2 of the first Test, and has been subsequently ruled out of the remainder of the series.

The gritty left-hander at times looked hapless outside off-stump and survived a chance when he hooked Jasprit Bumrah to deep fine leg, only for Murali Vijay to overrun the ball and fly over his head for a boundary.

Ashwin said the pitch turned only because of the dampness in the morning, which means the fast bowlers might still be the ones to win or lose the Test.

Bhuvi also contributed a crucial 99 run partnership with Hardik Pandya in the first innings and a 49 run partnership with Ravichandran Ashwin in the second. A fully stretched Parthiv dived to the left but the ball evaded his left hand.

In the last session though, India came alive.

Following Markram's wicket, Villiers (20) chipped in and along with Amla took the team to 199 until the swashbuckling batsman was clean bowled by Ishant Sharma.

The bowler, Hardik Pandya, reacted quickly though and his speed to the ball, swivel and quick release to the bowlers' end found Amla two feet short.

Shami was then brought back and struck with the wicket of Vernon Philander, lbw for 0.

Ashwin's figures of 3/90 in 31 probing overs spoke of a confidence and an appreciation of what he had to do on South African tracks. However, the Indians went back with a spring in their step, knowing that they have opened a door to make a splendid comeback into the contest.

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