South Africa vs India 2018: India get a home pitch away from home
Highveld is known for its steep bounce and pace. But the pitch on day 1 was unusually slow, more like a sub-continent pitch than a South African pitch. That Ashwin did majority of the bowling for India confirms this.
The ball was turning on day 1 on a South African pitch. India were pleasantly surprised. They felt at home! Centurion is a fortress for the Proteas. If the pitch was anywhere close to what it usually is and what the pre-match talks indicated, then India would have been routed again.
Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat at the Supersport Park. India looked down and out right from the first ball. The humiliation of Newlands had gone deep. There was no intent in their bowling and in their fielding. They looked scarred from a vicious punishment.
Aiden Markram, the young South African opener, has tremendous class and composure for a newcomer to Test cricket. He played a superlative innings filled with dazzling strokes in the V. He stood tall and played a few beautiful back foot punches in the cover region, exactly the same way he did in the 2nd innings at Newlands.
But this time, he didn’t throw his wicket away. He was on course to a fantastic century before getting out on 94. His dad, who was in the stadium, looked dejected when he got out. This would have been his 3rd century in just his 5th match. He has scored 4 fifties in 7 innings. He has been out twice in the nineties. On his debut, he was run out by Elgar on 97 against Bangladesh.
It started looking like it was going to be a long hard day in the field for India. Hashim Amla has not been his usual self recently. Helped by ineffective tired looking Indian bowlers, Amla slowly started to get back his touch.
De Villiers didn’t look charged up the way he usually is. He played a loose shot away from his body and the ball found the inside edge onto the stumps. The pitch was not all that easy to bat on. It was slow. But it is expected to quicken on day 2.
Amla tucked a ball onto the leg side and was called for an improbable single by Faf du Plessis. Amla hesitated for a moment and then ran, only to be run out on 82 by a superb piece of fielding by Hardik Pandya of his own bowling.
The Indian bowlers had looked toothless the whole day and were tired by now. India were flattened. South Africa were in a very dominant position and things looked ominous for India. South Africa were in a position to stamp authority and take India completely out of the contest. But things changed in a span of a few overs. De Kock fell for a duck. Philander ran himself out. All of a sudden, South Africa went from 246/3 to 251/6. South Africa had brought India back into the game.
The late fall of wickets meant South Africa ended the day at 269/6, around 30 runs short of what they should have been. India hardly deserved to be back in the game. The South African batsmen had gifted their wickets by playing loose shots. None of them got in to make a big score. They blew the chance to tire out the Indian bowling attack by posting a big score.