The much awaited India South Africa ‘Freedom’ series got off to a great start when India’s spearhead Bhuvaneshwar Kumar ran down through South Africa’s top order. The Best of South Africa’s Mr. 360 came out after that and took South Africa’s score to a competitive 286.
All eyes were on India’s ‘strong’ batting line-up and Cricket Pundits and enthusiast were eager to watch how the batting line-up fares up against a formidable pace attack on a bowling friendly track.
As expected South Africa’s pace attack came heavy on Indian batting and reduced the top order to 28/3.
On the second day, Indian batting was expected to fight back and Rohit Sharma who replaced the Vice Captain Ajinkya Rahane looked shaky from the start of the day’s play. Pujara looked more established on the other end as he was defending solidly from the other end.
Rohit Sharma ended up falling to young Kagiso Rabada as he found himself LBW falling after making a struggling 11 after facing 59 balls as India accumulated 48 in the first session.
Perhaps one positive for India at the end of the first session was Cheteshwar Pujara as he was at the crease. However, this happiness did not last long as Pujara was out on the first ball after Lunch as India lost their fifth wicket for the score of 76. Pujara scored 26 of 92 balls. This wicket triggered a mini collapse as India lost Ashwin to Philander and Saha to the comeback man Steyn in quick succession and score then read 92/7.
At this point as India were struggling to get going Hardik Pandya joined hands with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and played a knock which will be remembered for a long time as he hit the raging South African bowlers all over the park and stitched a solid 99 run partnership with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar at the other end who played the second fiddle to counter attacking Pandya and led India’s strong revival.
Morne Morkel got Bhuvaneshwar Kumar caught off de Kock for the score of 25 and Hardik Pandya fell soon after that on the score of 93 to Rabada who was the pick of the bowlers as he registered figures of 34/3 as he also went on to dismiss debutant ‘Jasprit Bumrah’. India scored 209 as South Africa got a lead of 77.
With 20 overs still left in the day, South Africa started the third innings on a strong note as Markram and Elgar accumulated an opening stand of 52. However, Hardik Pandya had some different plans as he removed both of them in quick succession to give India some hope before stumps on day 2.
South Africa ended the day with 65 on the board with the loss of two wickets, with experienced Amla and Night Watchman Rabada at the crease. South Africa are leading by 142 runs with a healthy 8 wickets in hands and so are definitely ahead at the point and will be a lot happier among the two outfits at the stage.
India meanwhile will be hoping to take a couple of early wickets and get back into the game as chasing in the fourth innings will not be an easy affair against the strong South African bowling.