South Africa were 78 for no loss at lunch on the opening day of the second Test against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday (January 13).
On a wicket which looked browner than a couple of days ago, and with more grass taken off before the match-day, the Indian fast bowlers struggled to find much assistance after Faf du Plessis opted to bat.
For South Africa, Aiden Markram did most of the scoring and was unbeaten on 51 at the end of the first session, with Dean Elgar keeping him company on 26.
Jasprit Bumrah, opening the bowling for the visitors, was the only bowler to extract some pace from the wicket but both the batsmen, playing at their home ground, negotiated that well.
The first runs for South Africa came in the third over via an inside edge of Elgar’s bat but then Markram took advantage of an off-colour Mohammed Shami, hitting successive boundaries in the pacer’s second over. Virat Kohli soon brought Ishant Sharma into the attack who bowled an excellent line and length, beating the outside edge on a regular basis, with a couple of edges falling short of the slip fielders as well.
Meanwhile, Markram took 13 runs off Shami’s comeback over which forced Kohli to introduce Hardik Pandya. Pandya, however, kept the things tight, bowling three maidens on the trot.
In search of a breakthrough, Kohli went back to Bumrah who almost provided a wicket straightaway. Bowling around the wicket to Elgar, Bumrah pitched one short. Elgar couldn’t control the hook but luckily for him, M Vijay, at deep square leg, misjudged it only to see the ball sail over his head, bouncing a couple of times before going over the rope. Markram, who was well-set by then, drove and cut Bumrah for consecutive fours, taking the total past 50.
R Ashwin then got Elgar to push at one outside off. The Indian camp felt confident that there was an outside edge and went for the review, only for replays to confirm on-field umpire’s decision.
Markram brought up his half-century off 81 deliveries. In all, he hit nine fours during the course of his innings.
Earlier, India made three changes in their playing XI. Shikhar Dhawan made way for KL Rahul, while the team management decided to go with Ishant in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar to take advantage of the extra bounce the Centurion wicket is known for. Parthiv Patel replaced Wriddhiman Saha, who had a hamstring niggle.
For South Africa, it was a forced change. With Dale Steyn out of action with a heel injury, the hosts handed Lungi Ngidi his Test cap.