Game in the Balance as India Hunts Test Victory
Leher Reddy Challuri DP 1
On the 5th of October in Visakhapatnam, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara emerge as the best performers for India as South Africa are phased with a difficult task of survival on day 5.
With only 2 wickets left in hand, Keshav Maharaj was dismissed early in the day, toe-ending a slow delivery that sucked him into a shot high in the air and straight to cow corner for 9 in the 124th over. The pair of Semuran Muthusamy and Kagiso Rabada put up an aggressive 35-run partnership, with both hitting a plethora of boundaries. Rabada was dismissed in the 132nd over due to LBW as India reviewed to challenge the umpire’s not out decision. Senuran Muthusamy remained 33* off 106 deliveries. South Africa ended their innings with 431 on the board, and while India did have a sizeable lead of 71 runs, South Africa did a good job keeping it to a minimum.
The Indian innings began well as Rohit Sharma targeted Keshav Maharaj, who bowled inconsistently every now and then. On the other end, Vernon Philander showed great discipline, bowling stump-to-stump and giving Mayank Agarwal no room to maneuver the delivery. Agarwal eventually broke free, with a boundary off a paddle sweep, but edged off to the slips the very next delivery, departing for 7. Rohit, accompanied by Cheteshwar Pujara, continued to be aggressive as session one came to a close, with India at 35-1 after 14 overs.
Rohit continued playing his shots, going arial and playing with touch as the second session commenced, but for awhile, South Africa were containing Pujara. They could have even dismissed him, but missed a stumping chance in the 28th over, when he scored 8 runs off 63 deliveries. He began to make them pay, clipping, driving, cutting, and even shuffling to his backfoot and going arial nicely and bumping his strike rate up in the process as well. On the other hand, Rohit had gotten to his half-century off just 72 deliveries in the 29th over. Rohit could have also been dismissed in the 32nd over as he slogged a delivery straight to Muthusamy at cow corner, but got a six instead as Muthusamy’s in-and-out effort ended with his leg touching the fence with the ball in his hands. The pair continued playing aggressively as South Africa failed to seize some more opportunities to dismiss Pujara, who edged of twice in the 41st over, and on both occasions, the ball went in between the slip fielder and the wicket keeper. Despite the occasional hiccups, the pair ended up stitching together a big 169-run partnership.
After a small burst of aggression as the third session began, Pujara was trapped in front by a good length delivery, dismissed for 81 off 148 deliveries in the 51st over, with a review not helping his cause. Rohit got to a magnificent second hundred of the test match, becoming only the second batsman to achieve the feet after Sunil Gavaskar. He then started going arial more often against the spinners, sensing the urgency for more runs and a declaration. That eventually brought about his undoing, stumped for 127 off 149 deliveries in the 57th over.
Ravindra Jadeja, sent in ahead of Kohli, picked up where Rohit and Pujara left off, hitting 3 sixes in his innings of 40 runs off 32 deliveries, which ended with him being bowled in the 63rd over. Virat Kohli, forced to come in after Rohit’s dismissal, also took on the bowlers, driving and slogging cleanly with his usual wristyness. Ajinkya Rahane also began aggressively, with luck on his side as he claimed two lucky boundaries in the process as well, with the slip fielders and the wicket keeper missing two edges entirely. The highlight of his innings was an inside-out boundary over covers. India declared at 323-4 in the 67th over, setting a target of 395 to South Africa with a whole day and about 10 overs in their hands.
The South African innings got off to a bad start, with Dean Elgar dismissed for 2 due to LBW in the 4th over, with a review from India changing the umpire’s decision to out. Theunis de Bruyn hit one boundary to the covers, but that was the only scoring attempt in the 9 overs they played, ending the day at 11-1, with 9 wickets in hand for tomorrow.
While South Africa, at this point, cannot win the test match, they can achieve a respectable draw as the game still hangs in the balance. India, on the other hand, will be looking to get the 9 wickets left well within the 98 overs tomorrow. What will Day 5 have in store for us? Will it be a resilient display from South Africa or will India claim victory once again on home soil? Join us on The Sreenidhian on the 6th of October to find out!