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14 January 2018, 01:46 | Henrietta Morgan
Cheteshwar Pujara walks in.
South Africa's openers settled in on a surprisingly hospitable pitch at Centurion and batted through the first session to go to lunch on 78-0 on Day 1 of the second test against India on Saturday.
The first session saw the Indian pacers slog it off to take wickets.
India was in position for a rare victory in South Africa in the opening test in Johannesburg in December 2013. However, in the second session, Ravichandran Ashwin finally got breakthrough India were looking for. It was Ishant and Pandya, who showed more Test-match discipline than India's two strike forces, who kept South Africa's run rate from getting out of hand.
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Amla looked in total control of his innings and struck 14 fours in his 82 before being called through for a risky single by Du Plessis. It is unlikely the Indian team will ever get such a wicket in South Africa again. It was a clear case of applying himself and making hay as the sun shone.
Ashwin was the pick of the Indian bowlers with three wickets to his name while Ishant had one. If not, this is set to be a run feast at the Centurion.
Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar were resolute though. One ball jumps occasionally and then it goes flat for a pretty long time. It only helped that this is his home ground. What is the "most consistent" player for? But once that was done with, he was at his stroke-playing best.
Credit has to go to Hardik Pandya for changing direction in his follow-through, fielding a ball nearly at square leg, turning around and going for and achieving a direct hit at the end that the batsman - Hashim Amla, slower of the two at that time - didn't expect action. But the move did not pay much dividend as even though there was turn on offer, it wasn't anything drastic to bother a batsman of Amla's class.
"The team management understands that they need to shore up the batting". But there wasn't sufficient evidence to overturn the on-field umpire's decision. But Ishant is the star of the second morning as he took two of the four wickets to fall today and finished with figures of 3/46.
"We have to get stuck in and be tough with the bat and the ball; get in their faces a bit and use our physicality in terms of our pace".
India then attacked Amla with short stuff and also tried to lure him outside the off-stump.
It was an unnecessary dismissal from a South African perspective and it also sparked the late Proteas wobble, because in the very next over Ashwin had Quinton de Kock caught by Virat Kohli for a first ball duck. In the end he had to run back straight to the dressing room without scoring.
That test, though, gave Ashwin the push he needed to work on his game, and especially to develop the variation that leading spin bowlers must have in modern cricket since Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne set the standard.
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