India rode on superb bowling performances by the spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to put themselves in a commanding position on the second day of the third Test against South Africa at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on Thursday.
South Africa ended Day Two at 32/2 in their second innings, requiring 278 more runs to win. Opener Dean Elgar (10) and skipper Hashim Amla (2) were at the crease at stumps with the visitors chasing a target of 310 runs to level the four-match Test series.
India had earlier extinguished South Africa’s first innings for a record low total of 79 runs before being bowled out for 173 in the second innings.
Ashwin and Jadeja wreaked havoc on a pitch which was a spinner’s paradise with prodigious turn and variable bounce. Ashwin claimed figures of 5/32 in the first innings while Jadeja had 4/33 as the Proteas slumped to their lowest total since being re-admitted to international cricket in 1991/92 following the abolition of apartheid.
This is the lowest total by any team against India in the longest format of the game. The previous lowest total by South Africa against India was 84 in Johannesburg in 2006. This is also the third lowest Test total by any team in India.
Before this, Sri Lanka held the record for the lowest total against India. They were bowled out for 82 in Chandigarh in 1990. Former left-arm spinner Venkatpathy Raju had taken six wickets in that match.
Ashwin picked up a wicket in South Africa’s second innings as well, sending back opener Stiaan van Zyl who found Rohit Sharma at short cover while attempting a lofted drive. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra then trapped Imran Tahir leg before as the Proteas got into deep trouble.
Earlier, leg-spinner Imran Tahir picked up the second five-wicket haul of his career, scalping 5/38 in India’s second innings. Experienced pacer Morne Morkel also bowled well, chipping in with 3/19.
Left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan top-scored for the hosts with 39 while Cheteshwar Pujara made 31. India lost in-form opener Murali Vijay early when he misjudged the bounce of a Morne Morkel delivery and South Africa captain Hashim Amla pulled off a low catch in the slips.
Cheteshwar Pujara seemed to be in good touch during his knock before being bowled by Duminy. Dhawan, who has not been among the runs in this series, was looking good for a big score. But the left-hander had to pay the penalty for being over-ambitious and perished while attempting a reverse sweep off Tahir.
Tahir then clinched the prized wicket of India skipper Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Wriddhiman Saha as South Africa clawed their way back into the game.
In the morning session, the South Africans struggled to come to grips with the surface. J.P. Duminy was the only South African batsman who managed to put up some resistance to the Indian spinners.
The left-hander survived a few close calls before being trapped leg before by Amit Mishra for 35. But while he was at the crease, Duminy tried his best to take the battle to the Indian spinners. He even danced down the pitch to hit Jadeja for a couple of sixes over long on.
But there were several edges as well, the most notable being a dropped chance by Virat Kohli at slip off Ashwin when Duminy was on 13.
The rest of the South African batsmen did not fare so well.
Resuming the second day at 11/2, the visitors ran into trouble straight away without adding to their overnight score when Dean Elgar got an inside edge onto his stumps while attempting an expansive cut off Ashwin in the very first over.
The first four deliveries had turned viciously before Ashwin produced a straighter one that outfoxed the left-hander.
South Africa captain Hashim Amla continued his poor form during this tour when he mistimed an Ashwin delivery while attempting a sweep. The ball hit Amla’s arm and bounced off the back of the bat near the toe end. It then bounced off wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha’s shoulder and Ajinkya Rahane grabbed it at slips.
AB de Villiers was the next to go when he played at a delivery early. The in-form South African tried to work it to the legside from outside off, but misjudged the turn and Jadeja gleefully accepted an easy return catch off a leading edge.
Faf du Plessis looked in good knick during his short stay at the crease before being bowled by Jadeja while trying to hit the over mid-on. His departure left Duminy in the company of the tailenders and it was only a matter of time before the South African innings came to an end.