South African batsmen Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar began the second day of the third Test match at Nagpur on Thursday batting together and ended the day together at the crease, taking the Proteas to 32/2 at the close of play, requiring a seemingly impossible 278 runs more to take the four-Test series into a decider.
Opener Stiaan van Zyl and nightwatchmen Imran Tahir were the two South African wickets to fall, van Zyl falling to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and Tahir trapped leg before by Mishra on the first delivery of his spell in the second innings. A joint-highest record of 20 wickets fell on a day that featured the visitors’ first innings, India’s second innings and the start of the visitors’ second innings.
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India took complete control of the match after bowling out the visitors for 79 in their first innings before setting a 310-run victory target. Ashwin took his 14th five-wicket haul in Tests while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bagged four as India, who made 215 after batting first on the turning track at the VCA Stadium on Wednesday, took a first innings lead of 136 runs.
Legspinner Imran Tahir picked up his second five-wicket haul in Tests to spearhead South Africa’s fightback as India were all out for 173 in their second innings to set the world’s top-ranked Test side a 310-run target for a series-levelling win.
In India’s second innings, opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan (39), who was dropped on 11 by Dean Elgar, added 44 for the second wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara (31) and another 45 with captain Virat Kohli (16) to keep South Africa at bay before Tahir wrecked the Indian top order.
In a surprise move, South Africa captain Hashim Amla kept the 36-year-old spinner off the attack till the 24th over but it did not take long for Tahir to strike. After a quiet first over, he removed Dhawan, then Kohli in the following over and also Ajinkya Rahane (nine) in the last over before the tea break, to reduce India, who were cruising on 97-2, to 108-5.
He also dismissed Wriddhiman Saha and Amit Mishra to complete his five-wicket haul. Fast bowler Morne Morkel gave him able support by picking up three wickets.
Earlier, South Africa’s total of 79 was the lowest by an opponent dismissed by India in a Test match, beating the previous mark of 82 posted by Sri Lanka in 1990 at Chandigarh.
The touring batsmen appeared clueless against the accuracy of Ashwin and Jadeja on a pitch offering variable pace and bounce for the bowlers.
Opening batsman Elgar (seven) fell on the fifth ball of the day to Ashwin and was quickly joined in the dressing room by Hashim Amla (one) and AB de Villiers (nought).
Faf du Plessis (10) was the first South Africa batsman to reach double figures and, along with JP Duminy (35), ensured that the team went past their lowest Test score of 30.
Legspinner Amit Mishra dismissed Duminy, the top scorer for the touring side, who resumed the day on 11-2.
India, who won the opening Test in Mohali before the second match was washed out due to rain in Bangalore, are eyeing an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-Test series after losing the preceding one-day international and Twenty20 series.