Fighting Maharaj, Philander put SA top tumble in perspective
From 139 for seven in 44.2 overs, South Africa’s tail-enders did well in the end to keep India in the field for more than 100 overs. If India decide not to enforce the follow-on, all credit will go to South Africa’s ninth-wicket pair of Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander. The two made the bowlers toil throughout the day after South Africa lost the wicket of skipper Faf Du Plessis at the total of 162. They were 275, conceding a lead of 326 runs.
In an innings where their top order floundered, the two took it upon themselves to show that with application the Indian bowling can be challenged even on a wicket that is offering help to pace and spin.
It was a brave effort from Maharaj to come out to bat after being forced off the field on Friday. The left-arm spinner hurt his right shoulder while trying to field on his follow through, though he bats right-handed. Philander set the tone when he walked out to bat at No. 9. He focused solely on playing out time and offered dead defence, playing out 192 balls, first in the company of du Plessis and then with Maharaj.
Maharaj went on to register his maiden first-class half-century, hitting 12 fours in his 72, the top score of the innings. Once the ball softened, the bowlers struggled to break the resistance of Maharaj and Philander on a slow pitch.
It was the kind of display the main South Africa batsmen will do well to take note of. It showed the top-order batsmen could have fared better had they shown a modicum of application.
Vice-captain Temba Bavuma said the team took heart from the lower order’s courageous display. “It was a spectacular effort from Vernon and Keshav to fight it out in the middle and face as many balls as they did and still accumulate runs. Us in the change room and on the sides, we were enjoying it. We were feeding from the confidence they were giving us.
“You saw the balance between the defence and the attacking shots. That’s something we’ve been speaking about as batters. That’s what we are aiming to do. The mood is definitely positive and has been positive, to be honest. It was enjoyable to watch the 260-ball partnership,” said Bavuma.
The middle-order batsman is having a poor series and was out for eight runs on Saturday. He struggled to explain his failures.
“Look, from the guys at the top of the order, the batters, the guys who are entrusted with scoring the bulk of the runs, it does kind of hurt, it does dent your ego when they (lower order) seem to know how to go out and fight it out to do what you’re really playing to do. The boys are trying with the bat and I think looking forward to the second innings, there’s a lot of confidence we can take in the fact that it’s not all demons out there. Just got to find a way to dominate with the bat, just as India have done. I don’t have the answers why it is going wrong,” said Bavuma.