Day 1 at Centurion would have been all about South Africa had it not been for that final session. The hosts were cruising at 246/3 at one point and Hashim Amla looked primed for a 29th Test century. And then, the Indian fielders closed in and this coincided with some utterly ridiculous running from South Africa. At the end of the day, the Proteas were 269/6. Captain Faf Du Plessis was in the middle on 24 off 77 balls alongwith Keshav Maharaj (10 off 23).
India started by serving a shocker to those predicting the playing XI. Rahane still didn’t make the playing XI in place of Rohit Sharma but what surprised the seers was Bhuvneshwar Kumar being dropped for Ishant Sharma. Virat Kohli said during the toss that the decision had been made so as to exploit the extra bounce. South Africa responded by winning the toss and putting up 50-plus partnerships for the first three wickets. The hosts did not emulate the start they had in the first Test and openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram put up a partnership of 85 before Elgar was dismissed.
Aiden Markram then soldiered on with Hashim Amla on the other side. Markram had stated before this match that playing India is a “massive” step up from playing Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, the two sides he has scored his Test centuries against. But he was denied a century in Centurion by Ravichandran Ashwin who celebrated his second wicket of the day when Markram was caught behind on 94.
The third major partnership of the day then came up and that was between Amla and De Villiers. The latter’s dismissal, though, became might just become the one reason Virat Kohli needed to justify dropping Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Ishant landed a short delivery outside off and De Villiers ended up getting an inside edge to it that went straight to the stumps. Captain Faf Du Plessis came on to bat and left the field only after the umpire called for stumps.
South Africa’s mini-collapse was triggered by a superb fielding effort from Hardik Pandya to dismiss Hashim Amla. Amla was on 82 and looked to steal a quick single after negotiating a shortish delivery from Pandya. The bowler sprinted alongwith Du Plessis, collected the ball and threw it to Amla’s end on the turn. It hit the stumps, and Amla was miles outside his crease in the replay. Quinton De Kock then got dismissed by Ashwin off the very first ball he faced and that was followed by Vernon Philander’s run out that could qualify for slapstick comedy. Philander looked to get off strike and was running towards the other end looking at the ball and not Faf Du Plessis. If he had, he would have seen that Du Plessis was not moving an inch and was asking him to go back. By the time he realised what had happened, there were two South African batsmen at one end of the pitch and Pandya clipped the bails off. Keshav Maharaj and Du Plessis then saw out the remaining overs.