Team India produced a spirited fightback on day two of the
second Test in Johannesburg, with Shardul Thakur stealing the headlines with a
stellar seven-wicket haul. Thakur’s 7 for 61 is the best figures by an Indian
in South Africa, and his efforts helped the Men in Blue bowl out the Proteas
for 229 after half-centuries from Keegan Petersen and Temba Bavuma. In reply,
India lost both openers early on, but the visitors finished the day with a lead
of 58 runs after some aggressive batting from Cheteshwar Pujara in the final
hour of play.
Having taken a 27-run first-innings lead, South Africa got
off to a promising start with the ball as Marco Jansen dismissed KL Rahul in
the 7th over, finding the outside edge with an incoming delivery that flew to
Aiden Markram at second slip. His partner, Mayank Agarwal, looked fluent at the
crease and creamed five boundaries in his knock of 23 before once again getting
out after a promising start. After playing a booming cover drive, the opener
suffered a brain fade, shouldering arms to an inswinger from Duanne Olivier
that trapped him on the pads.
The loss of both openers exposed India’s weakened middle
order, but the veteran duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara dragged the
visitors out of the woods in the final hour of play with some positive
stroke-play. Cheteshwar Pujara, in particular, showed remarkably different
intent compared to his first innings struggle, taking India to 85 for two at
stumps to give them a lead of 58.
Earlier in the day, Keegan Petersen and Dean Elgar survived
a testing spell of fast bowling from Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, sharing
a vital 74-run stand that frustrated the Indian bowling unit. The partnership
was eventually broken by Shardul Thakur, with the medium-pacer nicking off Dean
Elgar after another gritty knock of 28.
Thakur continued to wreak havoc with his probing lengths and
picked up two further wickets before Lunch, squaring up Keegan Petersen on 62
before getting Rassie van der Dussen to under-edge one to Rishabh Pant behind
the stumps, although replays suggested that the ball may have not fully carried
to the keeper.
After the break, Temba Bavuma and Kyle Verreynne steadied
the ship with another half-century stand, but Shardul Thakur answered his
captain’s call once again to break the partnership, trapping the wicketkeeper
on his pads with a delivery that tailed in. The Mumbai seamer sealed his maiden
Test five-fer with the wicket of Temba Bavuma in his next over, and after a
pair of 21s from Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj, Thakur wrapped up the innings
by picking up the final two scalps in the space of four balls.