The ebb and flow of Test cricket was on full display during
day three of the second Test at the Wanderers, with both teams trading blows in
a pulsating contest between bat and ball. India started the day on top with
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane scoring career-saving half-centuries
before the Proteas hit back through Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi to bowl India
out for 266. In reply, South Africa ended the day at 118 for two, with Dean
Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen still at the crease as the hosts need 122 more
runs to level the series at 1-1.
India began the day on the front foot with the two veteran
batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara carrying on from their onslaught
on the second evening and taking the charge to the South African seamers.
Having noticed the tricky nature of the Wanderers surface due to the uneven
bounce and cracks, the Indian batsman made a concerted effort to score quickly
on this pitch to set a substantial fourth innings target.
The pair scored 63 runs in the first 12 overs of the
morning, with Rahane creaming the ball elegantly through the covers while also
sending one uppercut over the ropes for six. Both batters reached their
half-centuries in quick succession to take India’s lead closer to 150.
However, just as the Men in Blue started to creep into the
ascendency, South Africa counterpunched through Kagiso Rabada, with the seamer
getting one to jump off a length and catch Ajinkya Rahane’s outside edge to end
the 111-run partnership. Cheteshwar Pujara followed soon after, falling prey to
an in-ducker from Rabada that rapped him on the pads.
India’s troubles worsened when a careless shot saw Rishabh
Pant dismissed for a duck by Rabada before Ashwin departed for just 16 to leave
the Men in Blue reeling at 184 for six. However, Shardul Thakur continued his
stellar Test match to score a superb 28-run cameo while Hanuma Vihari batted
excellently alongside the tail to give the tourists 240 runs to defend in the
South Africa got off to the perfect start to their run
chase, with the openers following Pujara and Rahane’s mantra from earlier in
the day and taking the aggressive route. Aiden Markram hit six boundaries in
his 38-ball 31 before Shardul Thakur trapped him lbw to pick up his eighth
wicket in the match. Elgar shared a 47-run partnership with Markram and added a
further 46 runs with Keegan Petersen in incredibly challenging batting
conditions caused by the variable bounce.
Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Keegan Petersen with one that
spun sharply, but the Proteas ended the day with their noses in front, needing
122 runs for victory with eight wickets still in the tank.