Rabada, Amla keep SA ticking in tough conditions


Lunch: South Africa 81 for 3 (Amla 32*, de Villiers 0*, Bhuvneshwar 2-17) trail India 187 by 106 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

In extremely tough batting conditions, nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada batted for almost the entire first session, did a decent impersonation of batting partner Hashim Amla when he flicked one from off stump to square leg, and took part in punishing the second string of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. You can never be in on this pitch, but on the evidence of day one, South Africa could hope for a relatively easier middle session. After just 23 runs in the first hour, the duo of Amla and Rabada added 52 in the next.

The exaggerated bounce and seam movement continued to turn batting into a game of heightened awareness, concentration, a higher level of risk, and a lot of luck. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s morning spell of 6-5-1-1 made you wonder where the next run would come from. A wicket looked likelier to arrive than a run off the bat. If there could be a criticism of India in the first hour, it was the fear of being driven because on such pitches, runs count for a lot.

The ball beat the bat or found the edge every third ball: 39 times in the first 20 overs. Only two of those were catchable edges. The skill on these pitches can sometimes be to seam the ball less, for which you might need to bowl full. Both of those edges were created by Bhuvneshwar, the second off Dean Elgar after toying around with him for 17 balls this morning. For once Parthiv Patel dived to his left. Other than that, it looked pretty and vicious, but India didn’t create enough opportunities.

India were, not for the first time on this tour, let down by Mohammed Shami. He was introduced after 13 runs had come in the first 12 overs of the day. The pressure was still on. And then Shami made Parthiv’s life hell. The first time he bowled down the leg side, Parthiv managed to keep the ball in. The next one flew for five wides, and into the wet covers. So hard had it been for the runs to come that with this extras were the top scorer out of a score of 24.

From the other end, just before drinks, Bumrah gave Rabada a full ball on the pads, and South Africa were away. Amla usually shuffles across, and here he exaggerated that movement to get close to seaming balls and gain greater access the leg side. He punched Shami through square leg for three, and Rabada matched it with a square-driven four. Amla raised a punch through point, but Rabada won this contest when he shuffled right across his stumps and flicked Bumrah through square leg for four. This could have been Amla in the mirror.

The game was running away quickly from India. With only 187 in the bank, India had to put a deep point in place. And then Rabada cover-drove. The gully had to come out now. Then he edged through gully. Amla began to pick balls off the stumps and play them fine into the leg side. There was luck involved. The first ball he faced after drinks, he went for a pull, and the top edge flew over the slips. A marginal lbw call went his way, and the umpire’s call on review frustrated India.

Just before lunch, though, Ishant Sharma found Rabada’s edge for gully to take, denying him a new top score, but he had done enough to earn a pat on the back from Amla and generous applause from the small weekday crowd.


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