Centurion : South Africa lost their first wicket in the 30th over, their second in the 48th and their third in the 63rd and partnerships of 85, 63 and 51 underlined how infrequently India’s bowlers struck in the first two sessions of play on day one of the second Test at Centurion.
But then, during the last half hour, India removed three batsmen in the span of 14 deliveries, one of them being the mighty Hashim Amla for 82.
Those strikes went a long way in turning a day of toil into a position of parity for India, and lifted their mood after two sessions of largely ineffective bowling barring R Ashwin’s two wickets.
At stumps yesterday, South Africa were 269/6 with skipper Faf du Plessis (24*) the last specialist batsman.
It was a stunning end for a day in which India underwhelmed for more than two sessions.
Amla, who before this Test averaged 24.43 versus India at home, was given lives on 14 and 30 and used those to move to 82 before a brilliant pick-and-throw from Hardik Pandya ran him out.
Two balls later, Quinton de Kock edged his first ball to slip, giving Ashwin his third wicket. Moments later, Parthiv Patel ran out Vernon Philander.
After going wicketless in the morning session, and with Amla being dropped twice, India need such moments to spike their day at SuperSport Park.
All told, each session got better for India.
The opener Aiden Markram was a thorn in their side from the time South Africa opted to bat, as he and Dean Elgar played out the first hour and then cashed in on a period of wayward bowling to take the score to 78/1 at lunch. It did not take long for them to feel the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was dropped for Ishant Sharma.