South Africa scored 138 runs and India took two wickets by close of play on fourth day to set up an absolute potboiler of a last day with the hosts needing 320 runs to win the first Test at Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.
After bowling India out for 421 runs in the post lunch session, South Africa built a strong first wicket partnership of 109 runs between captain Graeme Smith (44) and Alviro Petersen (76*). The Indians did not seem to have an answer to the duo as the Proteas threatened to take the game away from the visitors. But then, Smith fell trying to take a tight single, thanks to a stunning direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane.
Hasim Amla (4), the next man in, seemed to have been hounded by bad luck in the second inning too. He was bowled out in a bizarre fashion while trying to duck after misjudging the bounce on the pitch. Not rising as much as Amla expected it to, the ball crashed into the off stump.
Faf du Plessis was playing unbeaten at 10 at the end of day’s play.
Before they came out to bat, South Africa kept a tight grip on the match, with none of the Indian batsmen being able to cut loose on the fourth day.
Jacques Kallis bowled a fantastic spell of swing bowling to give the Proteas a crucial toehold. Kallis got rid of Cheteshwar Pujara (153) first, breaking a huge partnership of 222 between him and Virat Kohli (96) in the process.
The next wicket - that of Rohit Sharma (6) - was pure magic. The ball kept low, jagged wildly in and shattered the wickets.
In the next over, JP Duminy finally got a wicket when he snared Kohli four runs shy of his second ton in the match. Kohli was done in by extra bounce, edging the ball to the keeper.
MS Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane then came together to try and stitch together a partnership. The two had put up 31 runs when Duminy struck again, making the Delhi lad edge one to Graeme Smith at first slip.
Almost right after lunch, R Ashwin drilled it straight to Faf du Plesis at cover, jeopardising the counterattack.
Dhoni tried to lead the charge and bring some aggression into his game but he fell cheap too. The skipper tried to hit a short delivery off Philander out of the park, but ended up sending the ball straight to deep point, departing for 29.
The Indian innings would have collapsed after Dhoni’s dismissal but for a late flourish off the bat of Zaheer Khan. Khan batted fearlessly, taking on the pace of Dale Steyn and the rest of the Proteas bowling lineup, hitting the only two sixes of the match so far.
Interestingly, Khan’s cameo with the bat was not the only role reversal in the match. This match was the first Test where the wicket-keepers of both the teams bowled.
AB de Villiers had the last over before tea on Thursday and on Friday, MS Dhoni took off his keeping gear with four overs left in the day. He bowled two of them. However, nothing dramatic happened in either.
With the cracks on the pitch getting bigger and the bounce increasingly becoming unpredictable, the last day of play will be interesting. Play starts at 2pm, IST.
Live Commentary, India Second innings: