South African batters, led by their gutsy skipper Dean Elgar, dug their heels in to achieve inside 122 runs of a series-levelling victory in opposition to a decided India because the second Check appeared poised for a gripping fourth day end in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Elgar (46 batting off 121 balls) took some nasty blows off deliveries that spat off the cracks however stored his group on the right track at 118 for two in pursuit of a tough 240-run goal set by India within the wake of a stable century-plus partnership from the under-fire duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.

Shardul Thakur (1/21), who’s in the course of an ideal Check match, bought his eighth sufferer of the sport in an over throughout which the ball seamed, bounced and stored low from the identical spot with the final one discovering opener Aiden Markram’s (31) pads.

Keegan Petersen (28) added 46 together with his skipper earlier than Ravichandran Ashwin (1/14) bought one to float and switch getting a leg earlier than choice going his manner.

Nonetheless, like each new innings on this recreation the place heavy curler has made batting simpler by ironing out the divots on the nice size spots, Elgar was able to play the ugly recreation placing his physique on the road, getting hit on knuckles, chest, shoulder and even on head prompting a fast on-field concussion check.

Whereas South Africa will that they’ve half a foot by way of the victory door, there was quite a few cases within the sequence the place a batting collapse has modified the course of the sport.

There are two issues that may maintain India nervous going into the fourth day.

On this Check, the batting situations have improved because the match has progressed — 202, 229, 266 — and secondly, Mohammed Siraj is way from match and bowled solely 4 out of the 40 overs despatched down until now.

The Indian group, in its thoughts, is aware of that it’s a bowler brief.

Whereas 240 as a goal is greater than respectable, India might have pushed it a bit extra had Rishabh Pant’s poor shot choice, that incurred legendary Sunil Gavaskar’s wrath within the commentary field, not occurred on the most inopportune of moments.

Having been hit by a Kagiso Rabada bouncer, Pant charged to a different brief ball like a raging bull solely to be caught behind that prompted Gavaskar to query his sense of “duty” urging for the “nonsense” in garb of pure recreation” to cease.

But it surely was a day when India’s center order lastly got here good by way of combative half-centuries from Pujara and Rahane.

Pujara (53 off 86 balls) and Rahane (58 off 78 balls) gave recent lease of life to their respective careers with well timed knocks whereas Hanuma Vihari (40 not out) additionally performed an important half in swelling India’s total lead as they completed their second innings at 266.

Kagiso Rabada (20-3-77-3) was inspirational within the last half-an-hour earlier than lunch as he introduced his group again with fast dismissals.

Marco Jansen (17-4-67-3) and Lungi Ngidi (10.1-1-43-3) additionally performed their components to perfection.

The Indian middle-order, which has flattered to deceive on most events up to now couple of years, did its job and in addition bought some a lot wanted late-order help from Shardul Thakur (28).

Pujara and Rahane, in a hardly ever seen counter-attacking mode, added 111 runs in simply 23.2 overs, getting some respiratory house for themselves.

Having understood that point is certainly operating out for them, each the batters determined to not attempt to grasp round as they regarded for scoring alternatives.

The half volleys have been pushed imperiously and the width was dispatched disdainfully sq. off the wicket.

When Jansen bowled one brief, Rahane uncorked the slash over level for a six. Pujara’s 50 got here off 62 balls whereas Rahane’s half-century was accomplished in 67, signalling that they have been attempting to indicate ‘intent’ and put group’s curiosity above every part else.

They hit 18 fours and a six between them.

There was a time when India have been 155 for 2 with a lead of 128 and it appeared that South Africa’s propensity to bowl too brief or too full was proving to be damaging.

However then Rabada, South Africa’s finest exponent of quick bowling since Dale Steyn, produced an impressed present that’s so synonymous with the standard format.

Rabada discovered that very best again of size and it landed on the crack to deviate sharply, taking Rahane’s edge into keeper Kyle Verreynne’s gloves.

Pujara then bought one from Rabada within the off-stump channel to be plumb in entrance regardless of lunging far ahead.

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Nonetheless, the person who disenchanted every person was Pant, who first bought a snorter from Rabada that hit his helmet viser when he tried to defend awkwardly, after which he charged to transform a brief ball right into a half volley. The end result was an edge to keeper.

It was Vihari and Shardul, who have been concerned in a 41-run stand for the seventh wicket after which had two little however enormously necessary stands of 17 and 21 respectively with tailenders Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj to arrange chase for the Proteas. PTI KHS PM PM

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