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Virat Kohli-led India struggle on green Wanderers pitch on Day 1 of 3rd Test

After bowling out India for 187, South Africa ended Day 1 of the third and final Test at 6/1, trailing the visitors by 181 runs at Wanderers on Wednesday.

cricket Updated: Jan 25, 2018 12:32 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
India vs South Africa,Johannesburg Test,Ajinkya Rahane
Day 1 of the third and final Test more or less belonged to South Africa as India were bowled out for 187 at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Wednesday.(AP)

Rarely have India fielded an all-pace attack, 2012 WACA being the last time they had entertained this option. This Wanderers pitch, however, was Newlands with more bounce. So out went the specialist spinners from both sides to accommodate the extra seamer. (IND v SA, 3rd Test, Day 1 HIGHLIGHTS | SCORECARD)

India, mind you, had four pacers at WACA. But here, on an overcast and slight chilly morning after a night of rain had done its bit in sprucing up a lush pitch, India picked five seamers only to choose batting.

Only two batsmen and a tail-ender got to double figures as India reached 187, riding on Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s brave 49-ball 30. That and his late evening dismissal of Aiden Markram again showed why Bhuvneshwar should never be dropped when the nature of the surface changes. Electing to bat on a pitch that had plenty of grass cover though was a baffling decision that made some sense if tried to seen from Virat Kohli’s perspective.

READ | Cheteshwar Pujara’s marathon struggle gets him half-century vs South Africa

South Africa had batted first after winning the toss at Newlands, going on to win the Test. Kohli naturally wanted to put the runs first. But what he perhaps forgot was India weren’t playing at home. And more significantly, he is by far the most qualified batsman to score on South African turf.

That assessment might seem a little harsh towards Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored a vigilant 50, but was expected to anchor India’s innings with unwavering concentration. Despite all the talk about intent, Pujara is known for grinding out tough sessions. If Kohli was all about class and aggression, Pujara personified grit and patience. Having toiled to his fifty and reached a point where he was finally middling the ball, Pujara should have consolidated an innings that took 54 deliveries to get off the mark in the first place.

Five other batsmen batted on Wednesday but Kohli, dropped on 11 and 32, again looked to be in the form that kept South Africa nervous. Accompanying the flowing drives were Kohli’s impish grins that said he would go for his shots even if South Africa looked on top in favourable conditions. Edges were flying around, bouncers came thick and fast but Kohl had made up his mind not to take a step back.

It produced one of his gutsiest fifties that had nine boundaries and came with its share of chances too. Vernon Philander first dropped Kohli’s miscued pull off Kagiso Rabada before Lungi Ngidi induced an inside edge off a delivery Kohli was trying to leave. AB de Villiers, of all fielders, then dropped a sitter when Kohli chased a very short and wide delivery from Morne Morkel and only got the toe-end of the bat to connect. In Morkel’s next over, Kohli got an inside edge that flew just above his stumps.

READ | Virat Kohli rides luck to score gutsy 54 in final Test vs South Africa

Kohli took his chances, perhaps too many, to set India on track after they were 13/2. Once he was dismissed though, the run-rate took an immediate beating. India scored 52 runs in the 17.4 overs after lunch till Kohli was dismissed. The 62 deliveries after that produced only 17 runs. Rahane -- brought in place of Rohit Sharma -- tried to accelerate, driving Morkel for a boundary after Philander gave him a life by overstepping a delivery that produced a healthy edge. But Morkel soon trapped him leg-before that couldn’t be overturned with a review. Pujara’s dismissal, paying for indecision over leaving the ball, soon after was just the break South Africa needed.

First Published: Jan 24, 2018 13:31 IST