South Africa vs India, 3rd Test Day 4 Preview: Petersen & co. stand between visitors and history

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Fri, 14/01/2022
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Jasprit Bumrah (Left) and Virat Kohli
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IANS

When he wielded the bow, Karna's grace was comparable to Arjuna's. The same cannot be said of Dean Elgar with the willow, for he falls far behind some illustrious names if one uses aesthetics as parameter. However, by the end of the series, India will have reasons to believe that the South African captain might have found that rumoured lost Karna's armour and earrings of immortality.

With temper flaring high, edges not carrying, and shoulders drooping, India finally ended the third day, seeing the back of Elgar – a possibility even an eternal optimist must have given up on.

As the equation stands, South Africa need 111 runs to win the series and India eight wickets.

The key men who stand between India and history are Keegan Petersen, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and Kyle Verreynne. And if there is a bowling attack capable of still sealing a win from this position, it is India's. 

South Africa have the edge, but it is not over, for the they are up against a bowling consisting of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur and R. Ashwin in their ranks.

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With time not a factor in the Newlands Test, the Indian middle-order needed to outdo what they had done in the recent past. The trio of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane managed 39 runs between them.

Though Kohli remained in control and applied himself in both innings, the need on the third day was to provide Rishabh Pant with better support. Kohli did all the hard work for his 29. Then, not for the first time in the series, the outside edge betrayed him. However, his presence in the crease allowed Pant to take the calculated yet borderline bizarre risks as the scoreboard moved.

While Kohli was about determination and control, Elgar's innings was a blend of grit and luck. But then there was Pant, a man who seemed to be carrying a net-practice wicket in his pocket.

In an ideal world, Pant would have converted his hundred to 150 at least, striking at 100. But he turned down singles as Elgar spread the field for him. He played a range of brilliant strokes for no run – all to help India stretch the lead as much as possible. 

Pant arguably played the best knock of his career and became the first wicketkeeper outside Australia and England to score a Test hundred in South Africa. Had his teammates shown a fraction that application, South Africa would have been chasing around 300.

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During South Africa's chase, Kohli told Elgar and Petersen to 'relax', for he could hear their heartbeat. But what the world really heard through the stump mics were Kohli and his teammates' displeasure with the broadcaster. We have seen players giving a mouthful to umpires, opponents or even spectators. But the broadcaster?

DRS had stunned India. Again, in an ideal world, the ball from R. Ashwin that beat Elgar's edge and hit him on the pad would have crashed onto the stumps. But ball-tracking told a different story, something that shocked the experienced Marius Erasmus, who uttered, 'impossible.'

The livid Indians took to the stump mic to express their displeasure on the broadcasters. To nobody's surprise, Kohli led the charge for the verbal barrage, with K.L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Ashwin joining him. 

Meanwhile, Pant remained the chirpy self. From laughing boisterously to chiming in with the most innovative adjectives, particularly when Ashwin was bowling, Rishabh Pant kept doing Rishabh Pant things.

It was also Petersen's day. He remains unbeaten on 48, striking at nearly 80. He took a screamer at leg slip to get rid of Pujara in the first over of the third day. Later, while batting, amidst all the drama, he kept the scoreboard moving, with mental games galore, against a quality attack, on a not-so-easy surface, Petersen, a man with only five Test caps, rose to the occasion and not for the first time in the series. 

For a side struggling to fill the void created by the departure of A.B. de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, Petersen presents a ray of hope in a seemingly barren batting armoury. Not only has he looked to capitalise on the scoring opportunities, but he also created them, especially against the guile of Ashwin.

Before the match, Elgar called it South Africa's most crucial Test in 10-15 years. If Petersen, Bavuma and others can seal it from here, it will be a massive leap for South African cricket. As for India, not for the first time in recent years, the batters have left a bit too much for the bowlers, who have delivered more often than not. 

Another inspired show from the bowlers and India will create history by winning their first Test series in South Africa. Just one session, and the picture will be clearer.