South Africa was 138-2 at stumps on Saturday chasing a mammoth 458 to win the first Test against a Cheteshwar Pujara-inspired India at the Wanderers.
The No. 1-ranked South Africans still need another 320 runs to win on the last day,or more likely must bat out three sessions for a draw to keep the short two-Test series between Test cricket’s top teams level heading to Durban.
Pujara made 153 and shared a punishing 222-run partnership for the third wicket with Virat Kohli (96) in India’s second-innings 421 to completely subdue a South African attack missing injured fast bowler Morne Morkel.
Facing a world-record run chase,South Africa lost captain Graeme Smith for 44 and Hashim Amla for 4 to a bizarre dismissal when he tried to duck and was bowled by Mohammed Shami. Alviro Petersen was 76 not out.
India’s two late strikes after South Africa’s openers built a 108-run opening stand in the final innings ensured the visitors were still dominant as the Test goes into Sunday’s last day. The highest fourth-innings total at the Johannesburg ground is 351 and the Proteas must make over 100 more runs than that to win. Even a draw is a tough task.
Petersen was South Africa’s one bright point at the end of another gloomy day for the hosts with his unbeaten half-century including nine fours. India got rid of Smith when he set off for a single and Ajinkya Rahane threw down the stumps,and Shami’s short delivery smashed into Amla’s stumps when it kept low.
After both teams collapsed in their first innings,India put itself in prime position to win through the huge partnership between Pujara and Kohli,two of the tourists’ bright new batting stars in their first Test post-Sachin Tendulkar.
Pujara made his sixth Test century and his superb 153 was his fourth score over 150 in his young career. Kohli only just missed out on a second century in the game after his impressive 119 from Tendulkar’s No. 4 spot in the first innings. When he nicked behind off part-time spinner JP Duminy for 96 in his second knock he spun away and yelled out in dismay at this late error.
Still,India would have to be happy with its position in the series-opener on a quick Johannesburg pitch after much of the buildup to the contest at the top of the Test rankings revolved around the Indians’ supposed weakness against pace.
Pujara and Kohli dispelled that theory with their rampant stand late Friday,when they blasted South Africa’s vulnerable bowling attack for 175 from just 38 overs in the final session after tall quick Morkel left the field with a right ankle injury early in India’s second innings. He didn’t return and South Africa struggled badly,with Dale Steyn,the world’s premier Test bowler,returning figures 0-104.
Jacques Kallis and Vernon Philander had three wickets each,and spinners Imran Tahir and Duminy two each,but all too late for South Africa.
Also,tailender Zaheer Khan’s brutish 29 not out capped a humbling experience for the top-ranked team as he clubbed two sixes and three fours to rub salt into the South African bowlers’ still tender wounds. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni also made a quick-fire 29 to help set the massive target.