JOHANNESBURG – Kagiso Rabada gave the South Africans something to smile about, claiming the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara 10 minutes before tea on the opening days of the second Test against India in Pune on Thursday.
Until then, it had been another difficult day for the tourists, who struggled with their lines and lengths on a surface which provided plenty of pace and carry in the morning session, but which tapered off as the sun beat down on it through the afternoon.
Pujara’s wicket was Rabada’s second of the innings, after he’d claim Rohit Sharma in the morning. Pujara was trapped on the crease feeling at a lightly fuller ball, which he edged to slip, where South Africa’s captain, Faf du Plessis, did well to catch as he dived to his left.
Pujara scored 58, hitting nine fours and a six, and shared a partnership of 138 for the second wicket with Mayank Argawal.
At tea India were 168/3 with Argawal on 86 and Indian captain Virat Kohli yet to get off the mark.
Rabada leading the #ProteaFire attack| IND 200/3, 65 overs
A strapping, genuine quick✅
who regularly bowls in the 140-150kph range✅
Best-strike rate in tests amongst active bowlers✅
Can @KagisoRabada25 get another breakthrough? #INDvsSA pic.twitter.com/xeNoQpqyfm
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) October 10, 2019
Until Rabada made that breakthrough, Pujara and Argawal were largely untroubled as they batted through the afternoon session, with the pitch losing much of the life it had shown in the first session.
That coupled with the softer ball, made batting easier and of concern to the South Africans, who will bat last, is that some deliveries from Keshav Maharaj spun passed the outside edge of the bat, while one from Senuran Muthusamy, broke through the top of the surface.
Ravi Jadeja and Ravichandaran Ashwin, watching in the Indian dressing would have been licking their lips at the prospects of bowling on the surface as it dries out even more.
South Africa’s quick bowlers were noticeably more aggressive in the afternoon, led by debutant Anrich Nortje, who produced a barrage of bouncers in an attempt to unsettle the Indians. The plan didn’t work. While Pujara was happy to duck underneath the ball, Argawal took on the short ball and did so successfully, hooking a couple of boundaries behind square on the leg-side, and then producing an authoritative pull in front of square.
That shot seemed to signal the end of that particular plan, as it did Nortje’s spell, with Rabada then to pick up the wicket of Pujara.
Maharaj failed to build any pressure on the Indians, a worrying sign as South Africa will have been desperate to keep the run rate down.
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