11 wickets fell on a pitch that was another pacer’s paradise on Day 1 of the third Test in Johannesburg. India won the toss and, looking at the grass on the pitch, elected to bat first. The visitors ended up making 187 in their first innings with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara scoring more than 50 percent of the runs. Both got half-centuries in an innings that was propped up by some gritty batting and some uncharacteristic sloppiness on the field from South Africa.
India’s openers did not survive long on the grass. KL Rahul, in fact, lasted just seven balls. Vernon Philander was the man who gave South Africa the breakthrough with Rahul nicking one to the keeper. Murali Vijay lasted two more overs before succumbing to Kagiso Rabada.
It was then two very brands of cricket that one got to see as Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Virat Kohli negotiated the pitch. Pujara fended off a whopping 53 balls without scoring a single run. When he finally did get off the mark – a single off Lungi Ngidi – it led to cheers from the sparse crowd and smiles from those on the ground, including Pujara himself, and the dressing room. Kohli, by that time, had scored 15 off 37 balls and had been dropped by Philander just off the previous over.
They notched up 84 runs for the third wicket in this way, Kohli scoring as frequently as he could and Pujara collecting a venerable mountain of dot balls in his saint-like innings. Kohli was dropped another time, this time at second slip by none other than his Royal Challengers Bangalore team mate AB De Villiers. He brought up his 16th Test fifty with a four off Rabada but the Indian captain did not last long after that. It was Lungi Ngidi who got him again, this time with the 21-year-old’s parents beaming from the stands and AB De Villiers held on this time. It took Kohli’s outside edge and rocketed straight to De Villiers’ midriff at second slip. The former South African skipper looked a little shaken after taking that catch.
Pujara also got to his 50 and made no more. He got to that mark in 173 balls but before his wicket came that of Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane was saved once when Vernon Philander overstepped a delivery that he nicked to the keeper but there was not much he could add to the Indian total after that. He was caught LBW by Morne Morkel. Among the rest of the batsmen, it was only Bhuvneshwar Kumar who gave some resistance as India lost their last six wickets in the final session of the day.
India had dropped both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from the playing XI. The South Africa openers were also given a taste of that pitch, so much so that, by the umpires called for stumps, it looked India had made a rather competitive total. The only South African wicket to fall was that of Aiden Markram who nicked it to Parthiv Patel behind the stumps off Bhuvneshwar Kumar. South Africa start Day 2 trailing India by 181 runs. Dean Elgar and night watchman Kagiso Rabada are in the middle.