After South Africa had collapsed to 39 for 3 at the end of Day 2, it was expected that the Indian spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would rip apart the middle order and give India a healthy lead on Day 3. However, the day turned out to be quite the opposite, as the Proteas displayed their grit and technique to counter the spin threat. Dean Elgar along with Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock took the challenge on, and prevailed, in style.
While Elgar preferred hitting lofted hits against the tweakers, du Plessis employed the sweep consistently and put Ashwin under considerable pressure. De Kock cashed in on the fuller deliveries, hitting them through covers as he brought up his fifth Test hundred.
The morning began with India unleasing Ashwin and Ishant Sharma into the attack. The first half hour of play was all about India as the seamer scalped Temba Bavuma’s wicket, who was sent back LBW. That brought in Du Plessis, who started off cautiously but soon shifted gears, sweeping Ashwin and Mohammad Shami for fours.
At the other end, Elgar too shifted momentum, lofting Ashwin for a boundary. The Indian gave away another six as Du Plessis lofted him over covers, which forced Virat Kohli to change fields. However, the South African pair kept the singles coming, which meant that the run rate never fell drastically.
Both batters bettered their previous best score in India, with Elgar getting his fifty. Du Plessis too managed a fifty, as the duo piled on 115 runs for the fifth wicket. The frustrating partnership was finally broken by Ashwin, who had the captain caught at leg slip. However, India’s woes did not seem to end as De Kock got into the party, and made full use of his dropped chance when he was on 7.
Elgar got to his hundred in fine fashion, slamming a six over midwicket, but then went into a shell soon after as De Kock took over. The keeper led the charge in the 164-run partnership that was proving to be threatening for the hosts.
The Indians failed to create an impact with the second new balls as well, and they needed a rash shot from Elgar to breathe a sigh of relief. Looking to attack the spinners, Elgar holed one to deep midwicket off Jadeja, which was also his 200th Test scalp. He became the second fastest Indian to achieve the feat. De Kock was soon cleaned up by Ashwin, bringing doors on a counter-attacking knock of 111.
Vernon Philander was Ashwin’s fifth wicket in the day, but South Africa, with a dominant showing on Day 3, showed that they are keen to erase the horrors of 2015, when they had succumbed without a fight. They will resume at 385 for 8 on Day 4, 117 runs adrift India’s 502.
Brief Scores: India 502/7 decl (Mayank Agarwal 215, Rohit Sharma 176) lead South Africa 385/8 (Dean Elgar 160, Quinton de Kock 111, Faf du Plessis 55; R Ashwin 5-128) by 117 runs