Hardik Pandya came to bat when India’s score was 76. India had lost their best batsman of the innings on the first ball after Lunch. Cheteshwar Pujara, who had batted cautiously and left everything outside off-stump till then, poked his bat at one similar delivery was caught in the slips. Vernon Philander got the ball to move drastically away from Pujara. Any new batsman would dread this scene.
But Pandya counter-attacked the South Africa pacers who had been brilliant till then and scored 93 runs, his second best score in Test cricket, off just 96 balls. Against a bowling attack that had Indian batsmen on the mat with some tight line and length, could not stop Pandya from scoring quick runs.
The allrounder brought his half-century off 46 balls with a slap-drive through covers off Morne Morkel. He fell short of his hundred by seven run when he tried to play one over the slip cordon but managed only an edge what was accepted by the keeper.
Enjoying watching this uncomplicated, uninhibited batting from Hardik Pandya. Looking like a batsman.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) 6 January 2018
South Africa would not have suffered so much from Pandya had Dean Elgar held on to a catch at the slips when Pandya was batting on 17. If not that then Pandya survived the stumping chance when on 71.
He, however, was not kind to the South Africa leg-spinner Kesav Maharaj when he came on to ball. He took 12 runs from his first over and also survived a stumping chance. He hit him for a six off his first ball and then charged again on the next ball, missing it completely. But, Quinton de Kock could not collect the ball behind the stumps to remove the bails.
On this pitch, a break can work as a partnership-breaker….hope that’s not the case right now. Pandya deserves a 💯 🏏😊🙌
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) 6 January 2018
He then gave little chance to the South Africa bowlers and continued his march towards a century that held India move past 200-run mark. He shared a 99-run stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the eighth wicket.
More than his counterattacking, Pandya’s innings will be remembered for the fearless batting his put on display. He was tested with short balls from Kagiso Rabada, outswing from Dale Steyn but he survived everything and punished every loose delivery he got.