Johannesburg, Jan 5 (IANS) Openers Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar were off to an optimistic start to help South Africa reach 34/0 in seven overs on day three of the second Test at the Wanderers. At tea, South Africa need 206 runs to win and level the three-match series.
After cameos from Shardul Thakur (28) and Hanuma Vihari (40 not out) propelled India to set a 240-run target for the hosts, South Africa came out oozing with positivity. Markram dealt in boundaries, with a picture-perfect cover drive off Mohammed Shami being the standout. Elgar was at his gritty best to ensure South Africa escape second session unscathed with the bat.
Earlier, Thakur and Vihari did very well in taking India’s lead past 200. If Thakur had bailed India out of trouble with the ball on day two, on day three, he did the same job with the bat. Resuming with a lead of 161 at lunch, Thakur tore into Marco Jansen, hammering boundaries through cover and point. Thakur continued to deal into boundaries off Jansen, a top-edge on hook went over the keeper for a six while the next two boundaries were lofted and pulled towards the on-side.
Thakur’s lightning quick knock came to an end when he tried to pull Jansen’s short ball but picked out Keshav Maharaj at deep square leg. With some byes and no-balls, India’s lead swelled past 200. Jansen, after taking out Thakur, strangled Mohammed Shami down leg for a duck. Vihari and Jasprit Bumrah took a four and six respectively off Kagiso Rabada but in the next over, Lungi Ngidi took the latter out with a top-edge flying to Jansen at point.
With Mohammed Siraj struggling due to hamstring issue, Vihari farmed the strike and began to go for the kill. He made use of the short ball strategy to upper-cut over slip cordon, slap over mid-wicket with a forehand smash-like shot, hitting over extra cover and pulling over deep square leg. Ngidi ended India’s innings by ratting Siraj’s off-stump, leaving Vihari unconquered at a gritty 40.
Earlier, in an action-packed first session, India dominated the first hour, making 66 runs in 14 overs, thanks to Rahane and Pujara cashing on South Africa’s wayward lines and lengths. But the hosts’ bounced back in the second session, taking four wickets while conceding 37 runs.
Rabada picked up crucial scalps of Pujara, Rahane and Rishabh Pant while Lungi Ngidi took out Ravichandran Ashwin. But the Indian lower-order, mainly Thakur and Vihari, came into play as 82 runs came off the last four partnerships, giving South Africa a target at a place where they have never chased anything above 220.
Brief scores: India 202 & 266 in 60.1 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 58, Cheteshwar Pujara 53; Kagiso Rabada 3/77, Lungi Ngidi 3/43) against South Africa 229 and 34/0 in seven overs (Aiden Markram 24 not out, Dean Elgar 10 not out), South Africa need 206 runs to win.