Rassie van der Dussen’s and Keshav Maharaj’s late dismissals at the hands of the tireless Jasprit Bumrah tilted the scales decisively in India’s direction at the close of the fourth day of the first Test between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.
Van der Dussen (11) and captain Dean Elgar resisted stoutly for 137 balls in their 40-run partnership, but Bumrah (2/22) broke through to hand India a clear advantage.
That was widened when Bumrah speared in a searing yorker with what became the last ball of the day to get rid of Maharaj (8).
SCORECARD | South Africa v India, First Test, Day Four
In defence of 305, India bowled excellently and limited South Africa to 94/4 on a surface that may have been under covers for the entirety of day two, but behaved like a typical fourth/fifth day pitch with irregular bounce an extravagant seam movement.
South Africa needs a further 211 runs to win to keep their seven-year SuperSport Park unbeaten streak intact.
Elgar (52*) went on to raise his 18th Test 50 off 121 balls and it is with him whom SA’s fortunes will rely on what will be an interesting fifth day after India’s attack applied a proper squeeze
India’s crack fast-bowlers harnessed the conditions effectively and when the ball behaved, they bowled tight lines and lengths.
India’s in-out field also suffocated the hosts, with release shots finding fielders and boundaries being hard to come by.
The overall run rate was 2.3, but in a constricting final session, India only gave away 72 runs in 31.5 overs.
That’s a textbook example of pressure creation in a game that, unless the weather intervenes on Thursday, will have a winner.
The loss of the second day has sped up proceedings at a ground where Tests hardly go the distance because of the capricious nature of the pitch from day three onwards.
That said, in compiling 272/3 on the first day on the back of KL Rahul’s ton, India were always in the pound seats.
South Africa’s untrustworthy batting under-delivered, but 32/4 ended up being 197 thanks to Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock.
Rushed batting from India and SA’s much-improved bowling limited India to 174, but it left SA with the unenviable task of having to reel in the highest successful fourth-innings target at this ground.
When Aiden Markram (1) played on a Mohammad Shami (1/29) delivery to have SA reeling at 1/1 after nine balls, the panic station was already flashing red lights.
The skittish and ungainly Elgar and the aesthetic Keegan Petersen (17) initially doused the pre-tea fire to go the break at 22/1 and looked competent against the excellent bowling.
It was a pity their partnership only spanned 33 runs as an excellent Mohammed Siraj (1/25) outswinger accounted for Petersen.
Rotating from the Hennops River end once Ravichandran Ashwin found his stride from the West Lane end, India’s pacers found a length and continuously probed.
Elgar and Van der Dussen prodded away with soft hands, but were also beaten with regularity outside off-stump while India’s hostility was unrelenting.
Van der Dussen though couldn’t survive Bumrah’s searching examination when he shouldered arms to a booming inswinger.
That left Maharaj and Elgar with the onerous task of seeing out the day’s play, something Elgar did, but Maharaj, who to his credit ensured the next batter didn’t face the late evening heat, didn’t.
Scores in brief:
India: 327 and 174 (Rishabh Pant 34, Ajinkya Rahane 20, Virat Kohli 18, Kagiso Rabada 4/42, Marco Jansen 4/51, Lungi Ngidi 2/31)
South Africa: 197 and 94/4 (Dean Elgar 52*, Keegan Petersen 17, Rassie van der Dussen 11, Jasprit Bumrah 2/22, Mohammed Siraj 1/25, Mohammad Shami 1/29)
South Africa need 211 runs to win