Indian top order stunned: Steyn, Philander and Morkel strike.
End of South Africa innings: Tail wags as the hosts make 286
Dream start for India: Bhuvneshwar destroyed South Africa top order.
Big calls from Kohli: No Rahane; Bumrah makes his debut.
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Wrap up after day one: So whose day was it anyway? Getting South Africa all out for 286 after losing the toss is no mean achievement but 28-3 with the top three gone and no Rahane in the middle order, one worries about India’s prospects in this match. But my goodness, what a day of Test cricket. Credit to Sri Lanka for pushing us to a low that makes this so much more thrilling, eh?
We’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks for joining me along with Ashish, Kushal and Anand. This is Vinayakk signing off.
Data check: Shikhar Dhawan’s poor run away from the subcontinent continues.
Closing notes from Ashish Magotra:
So, 28-3. It didn’t take long for India to realise that they aren’t playing at home anymore. Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli are back in the dressing room. Philander got Vijay to nibble outside the off-stump, Dhawan played a typically bad shot against Steyn and Kohli was done in by a snorter from Morkel. Three wickets, three different fast bowlers and still no weakness to exploit. India’s problem in this innings and this tour is going to be that South Africa’s bowling attack has no real weakness.
Still, South Africa are also the inspiration here. They recovered from 12-3 in the morning session to post 286. India will hope that – at the bare minimum – they can do the same too.
STUMPS: India finish day one significantly less happy than how they started it. They had reduced South Africa to 12/3 in five overs but are now down to 28/3 in the 11 overs they faced. South Africa’s day, definitely.
After 9 overs, India 27/3: Well, well, well. Morne Morkel gets the massive wicket of Virat Kohli off his very first ball. Short of good length – this is the length Morkel loves – and it rises and rises, Kohli goes poking at it. Again, could have left it. This is now a rather predictable top order collapse for India.
After 6 overs, India 19/2: What have you done, Shikhar Dhawan! Steyn rushes him into the pull shot (a shot that was needed in the first place) and the top edge goes high and falls right into his own hands – Steyn enjoyed that. Really enjoyed that.
And we get the Kohli-Steyn show.
After 5 overs, India 16/1: Vijay survived a big LBW appeal in Philander’s previous over when he left a ball that was awfully close to the offstump. And ironically, goes fishing at a ball outside offstump (considerably outside) and edges it to gully. So uncharacteristic, so unnecessary.
After 2 overs, India 9/0: Alright, then. Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay have a tricky phase to negotiate against the fearsome foursome that is South Africa’s bowling attack. First up is Philander, who gets one delivery to go through the defence of Dhawan, but it goes over the top of the stumps. Big appeal but nothing doing. He responds with a fine cover drive off the very next delivery. Two boundaries in that over.
And its that man Dale Steyn from the other end. How good is it to see him back in action?
Data check: India would do well to improve on their average 1st innings total batting 2nd.
Innings break: India started well with Bhuvi’s fiery opening burst. South Africa, though, staged a fine fightback through a classy 114-run stand between ABD and Faf. India did well to rein in the opposition in the post lunch session but they should be disappointed with the effort against the lower half of the lineup. From 142/5, the tail wagged to get to 286. One of those cases where India would have been happy with the scoreline if this was given to them at the toss but from 12/3, and 142/5 they can’t be too pleased.
So, here we are. A tricky phase coming up for the Indian openers.
South Africa 286 all out, after 73 overs: A bizarre phase of play from an Indian perspective, as the fast bowlers chose to bowl short, short, short but Ashwin takes his second of the day, with one that straightened from round the wicket and Morkel fails to read it. Doesn’t even bother to review. And Morkel and Steyn rush back, with a spring in their step one can imagine, as they get a pop at India’s top order with the brand new ball.
After 70 overs, South Africa 282/9: Ashwin comes in to the attack and Ashwin gets the wicket. Rabada tries to cut, gets a faint edge and Saha takes a very sharp catch – his fifth of the day.
After 68 overs, South Africa 272/8: From 142 for 5 when Faf du Plessis got out, India have struggled to clean off the hosts’ lengthy tail. Once again, the lengths are baffling. While they have used the occasional bouncers there haven’t been enough yorkers.
After 63 overs, South Africa 258/8: A lucky breakthrough for India. Bizarre approach from Maharaj. That run-out came out of nowhere because, frankly, the Indian bowlers were not getting anywhere with the lengths they were bowling. Maharaj taps to Ashwin at silly midon and takes off, Rabada says no and he takes forever to turn back and reach the crease. A direct hit from Ashwin and he is caught short.
Analysis: India’s lengths to Rabada and Maharaj were bizarre. Just the one yorker to both of them combined (which came in Shami’s last over) – India have missed a trick here.
After 60 overs, South Africa 257/7: Once again, a healthy partnership developing. And India’s slip catching and propensity to let opposition’s tail wag is coming back to haunt them. Maharaj was on 0 when Dhawan dropped him, he has now made 34 off 43 balls. But it was Rabada who played one of the shots of the day. Bhuvi lands one on good length from around the wicket and the pacer just swung through it with a golf-like arc and sent it flying over the ropes.
After 57 overs, South Africa 241/7: Steady start to the session by both teams after the frenetic pace of the first two sessions. 11 runs in the four overs, the latest a maiden by Bhuvi. Not much happening off the pitch now, to be honest, with the old Kookaburra ball.
Final session underway: Bumrah and Bhuvi are bowling in tandem, like they are used to doing, only this time with the red ball.
Tea-time discussion: About South Africa’s tactics. A bit bizarre? Ashish Magotra thinks so.
“South Africa have done very well to recover from 12-3 to reach 221-7 in 50 overs but one can’t get rid of the feeling that they have sold themselves short a little. They got good partnerships going and the run-rate was always very good but each time, they seemed to gift away the wickets.
Dean Elgar got a beauty first up and Aiden Markram was deceived by Bhuvi but almost all the other batsmen were responsible for their own downfall. Hashim Amla went too hard at a wide delivery, big gap between bat and pad for AB (65), feet didn’t move for Faf (62), De Kock (43) was guilty of perhaps the same error. It makes one wonder whether this is the right tactic? If they have been slightly more conservative, could they have had a perhaps put on a bigger first innings total?
Virat Kohli won’t complain about it but will India’s approach be influenced by SA’s tactics?”
At tea, South Africa 230/7 in 53 overs: Very similar to the first session. Early wickets and a fighting counter-attack. Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander were the protagonists of this fightback. The scoring rate in that session was over 4.5 – a very healthy rate but the wickets column is a worry.
After 51 overs, South Africa 221/7: And Shami finally joins the wicket-taking party. This is an absolute peach. The first ball of the over saw him pitch the ball full and it tailed back in (first sign of reverse swing?) but Philander left the ball – an amazing leave as it just went above the bails. The next ball does exactly the same things, other than pitching a couple of inches fuller and this breaches the bat-pad gap and kisses the bails.
As Ashish Magotra puts it: DRS would have returned umpire’s call for that!
After 50 overs, South Africa 221/6: That looks like a ODI score to be honest. The pace of the cricket today has been breakneck. Keshav Maharaj, meanwhile, since that dropped chance, has decided to score freely. Two boundaries and one six since – the first six of the innings being a supremely confident lofted shot straight for six.
After 48 overs, South Africa are 206-6. As India drop yet another dolly at the slips (Shikhar Dhawan puts down an outside off Keshav Maharaj and denies Bhuvi a five-for.)
Anand Katakam: India’s horrendous slip fielding continues. According to a Cricket Monthly article, Indian fielders have missed over 27 per cent of their chances – the fourth worst among all Test playing nations.
After 45 overs, South Africa 202/6: Bhuvneshwar Kumar strikes! And once again, just when things were looking good for the hosts, they are pegged back again. This has been the pattern of the day. Wickets, counter-attack, wickets, counter-attack, wickets. A blistering 50 was imminent for QdK but he gets a good ball from Bhuvi from around the wicket – on good length, slightly straightens from the angle and takes a faint nick to Saha. Gone for 43 off 40.
After 42 overs, South Africa 190/5: 69 runs from the last 11 overs! The boundaries are flowing at the Newlands with both de Kock and Philander opening up. No bowler is being spared. Philander plays one of the shots of the day – a stunning off drive, the elbow high, the bat face straight and the placement perfect.
Ashwin comes in to the attack finally in the 42nd over and QdK welcomes him with a cut shot for four – six runs in that over. A quick-fire 50 partnership coming up.
Drinks time: South Africa 164/5.
Gambler’s luck? Ashish Magotra writes about the turnaround since lunch:
So far, the gamble has worked for Virat Kohli. The decision to bring Bumrah ahead of established names surprised many but after an indifferent start to the game, Bumrah found his bearings in the post-lunch session. Kohli chose to start the session with Bumrah and Pandya – showing just how much confidence he had in them.
Bumrah kept it outside the off-stump and was generally more accurate. This led to AB de Villiers going for a big shot and leaving a huge gap between bat and pad. The inside edge did the rest. The wicket came against the run of play but it was just the thing India needed.
At the other end, Pandya settled into a good line and length. He hit the deck hard, got some movement and got something extra from the wicket when he bent his back. For a man who hasn’t played too much Test cricket, Pandya seemed to know how to do the right thing.
The umpire’s call saved Faf du Plessis once much to Kohli’s disappointment but then Pandya got his man by inducing a false shot outside the off-stump. It means that India are now into the SA tail.
SA started the session on 107-3 after 26 overs. In 12 overs after the break, the hosts have made their way to 156-5. The session run-rate is 4.08 but it is the wickets that really matter.
After 39 over South Africa 164/5: Quinton de Kock showing why he’s hailed as the next Adam Gilchrist. Another counterattack brewing with the stylish leftie smashing three boundaries off one Bumrah over and two more from Bhuvi’s comeback over. He’s hitting the ball so sweet that the ball might get diabetes. Drinks.
South Africa 142/5 after 36 overs: What an over from Pandya! He gets Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli cannot contain his joy. An eventful over. First a confident LBW review as Pandya beat Faf with a rare indipper - it looked good, it looked really good but umpire’s call on impact! Looked very harsh and Kohli wasn’t happy. And two balls later, Pandya gets his man. This moves away but Faf should have left that alone. Saha gets another catch and Kohli gives a send off (of sorts) to his counterpart.
Kushal Phatarpekar on the breakthrough:
Crucial strike by India. ABD and Faf were getting into a comfortable position after the Lunch break. Bumrah had made a bright start to the session, and has been rewarded with his first wicket in Test cricket. The runs have dried up with Kohli opting for a spread field and just 19 runs in 7 overs since lunch speaks for that. Clever ploy by India to stem the free-flowing rate.
After 33 overs, India 126/4: Jasprit Bumrah strikes and that’s the breakthrough India desperately wanted! What a first wicket to have against your name. Ab de Villiers tries to play an expensive drive and the ball is full, just moves back in a bit and takes the inside edge. ABD reacts with immense disappointment as the stump is rattled. What an innings though.
After 31 overs, South Africa 121/3: ‘Bahut badiya, bahut badiya Hardik,’ says Virat Kohli. And he’s quite right. He’s looked good so far, getting a good shape going away from the right-handers. A couple of edges that miss the slip cordon and some plays-and-misses. A loud appeal in Bumrah’s over for caught behind as there was a noise when Faf tried to glance it fine. India review but Bumrah... wait for it... has overstepped! Luckily for India it was not out and even more luckily, they keep the review.
Anand Katakam weighs in: “Despite a rough start, the South Africans have constructed a careful recovery. De Villiers has countered the Indian pacers and is scoring at nearly a run a ball.”
Here’s a look at his strike rates across innings.
After 27 overs, SA 109/3: Bumrah starts things off and gets Faf to play and miss one. It jagged away and Kohli would love more of that from the bowler. Big session for both teams though. Can SA continue their recovery or will India find their best bowling form again? Don’t look away from this one.
The Kookaburra challenge: After lunch, India will come face to face with a challenge that they have spent a lot of time preparing for. Ashish Magotra weighs in:
The big question for me at this point is how good will Bhuvi be with the older ball. His opening spell was magnificent but when he came around for his second spell, he didn’t look as threatening. And with him – that has always been the big question... once the new ball is out of the equation, how good is he with the older ball?
After lunch, SA might look to attack even more and how will Bhuvi react to that? Will he get any reverse swing? Will he have to be the workhorse as well as the wicket-taker? Will he get support? It doesn’t help that the Kookaburra isn’t exactly his favourite ball.
Just before he left for SA, Bhuvi spoke about the challenge: “The Kookaburra is the toughest ball to bowl with. It does not do too much after 25-30 overs, so these are the kind of situations we are trying to prepare for.”
At lunch, SA are 107-3 after 26 overs. Just around the number of overs when Bhuvi and India think the ball tends to lose some bite.
Lunchtime conversation: Here’s Kushal Phatarpekar, on a fine session of Test cricket...
“It was a riveting session of Test cricket. A fine start by the pacers and then the recovery by the middle-order batsmen. India are guilty of letting the momentum slip. After India were asked to bowl first, Bhuvneshwar Kumar handed India a fantastic start with some quality swing bowling. He blew away the South African top-order as they were left reeling at 12/3.
However, the end of his first spell coincided with the start of the South Africa’s recovery led by senior South African batsmen AB de Villiers and faf du Plessis. Their unbeaten 95-run stand has brought the hosts back into the game. Kohli will rue the missed opportunity to snuff the fight out of the South African batting line up.
Bumrah on debut, got some swing early on, but couldn’t put the batsmen in much trouble. Same for Shami who strayed all around the wicket. Kohli also missed a few tricks by not bringing Ashwin into the mix. A couple overs of spin could have helped draw batsmen out of their comfort zone. South Africa, though, have a lot of work still left to do. A wicket early in the second session could hand India the momentum back.”
Lunch, South Africa are 107/3: Test cricket, you beautiful thing! A session that started with Bhuvneshwar giving Faf du Plessis a potential migraine for opting to bat first has ended with the South African captain having the best seat in the house to watch genius at work. AB de Villiers has slammed a quickfire fifty and South Africa have staged a fantastic recovery.
After 25 overs, SA 98/3: Hardik Pandya into the attack and Bhuvi returns for a second spell too. Kohli senses the match slipping away. Pandya with an impressive first over.
This has been a fantastic knock by AB de Villiers so far and here’s Ashish Magotra with some appreciation:
“When AB de Villiers walked in to bat, SA were 7-2. Five runs later, they lost one of their batting mainstays, Hashim Amla, too. And AB responded in the manner the very best batsmen do – he counterattacked. It was perhaps apt that he got to his fifty with another classy four. It took him just 55 balls and included 10 fours.
Bhuvneshwar was bowling superbly initially and AB decided that the only way to get SA back into the match was to somehow force the Indian seamer to change his line and length. He went with his gut and even hit Bhuvi for 4 fours in the latter’s fifth over. When AB decided to make himself available for Test cricket again, SA heaved a huge sigh of relief. This innings shows just why they so desperately wanted him back.”
After 23 overs, South Africa 96/3: What a fifty by Ab de Villiers! Fine innings this has been, and he has made sure India didn’t run away with the session. Gets to the landmark with a thumping square drive for four - his 10th boundary of the innings. Shami looks a bit deflated and this is just the first hour.
Here’s Kushal Phatarpekar with his take on South Africa’s fightback:
Ab de Villiers and Faf du Plessis’ sound stand has coincided with the end of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s first spell. Shami and Bumrah have not been able to trouble the pair so far. There have been a few appeals, but nothing serious enough to cast doubts in the minds of the batsmen. Shami has not been accurate like Bhuvi, while Bumrah has extracted swing, but has not been able to deceive the batsmen quite like the UP pacer. As the day wears out, the nip in the air is bound to go down. If this pair is allowed to carry on in the same vein, then India might end up undoing all the work put in by Bhuvi early on.”
South Africa 78/3 after 21 overs: Another spell of play where the batsmen have had their say. Closest India have come to earning a breakthrough is when Shami got one to bounce of the good length and nip away, but Faf played with soft hands and it didn’t carry to Virat Kohli. Bumrah fired one in full as well that left Faf on the ground but it was always moving too much.
AB de Villiers is nearing a half century, in what has been a boundary-filled innings.
After 16 overs, SA 64/3: Fifty partnership in 64 balls! The two senior batsmen for the Proteas are wrestling the momentum back in style. ABD takes on Shami with two boundaries, Faf does the same to Bumrah.
Here’s how Shami and Bhuvneshwar’s pitch maps have looked so far today.
Drinks, South Africa 42/3 in 13 overs: Bhuvi has bowled a seven-over spell and except that one over when ABD went after him (taking 17 runs) it’s been a brilliant spell and he will likely get a breather. Bumrah has looked so far, getting some good carry. He’s going from wide of the crease quite often. Both ABD and Faf are leaving the ball well.
Here’s Kushal Phatarpekar with his take on Bhuvi’s fantastic initial burst:
“Three wickets in as many overs. Bhuvi has started the South Africa tour with a bang. After South Africa opted to bat first, the onus was on India to make most of the initial swing on offer. Bhuvneshwar has taken on the responsibility well and given India a confidence-boosting start at the start of what is bound to be a long and testing tour.
Not only has he used swing to good effect, he is reading the batsmen. The wickets came thanks to a sound use of line and length by the 27-year-old. On middle and off and moving away just enough to force the batsmen to offer a shot and not just leave it to the keeper.
Markram chose to leave the ball, but was trapped as the ball jagged back just enough for him to be found leg before. Elgar could have done better not to poke at the delivery, but the surprise of a well pitched delivery after two on leg had him at his wits end. Amla though was uncharacteristically impatient.
Great start for India.”
After 10 overs, South Africa 34/3: (Just typed Sri Lanka instead of South Africa. Old habits!) Steady first over from Bumrah, strays down the pads a couple of times but there is protection at fine leg. Does produce one great inswinger – there’s still life in this pitch.
A great start to this Test match. The first 10 overs have produced riveting action. Bhuvneshwar’s early burst, Shami struggling for rhythm, ABD’s counter-attack.
After 9 overs, South Africa 32/3: The Ab de Villiers show has begun. Here’s a man who has taken 3 wickets in his first overs but ABD decides he needs to stamp his authority on proceedings – slams four boundaries in the over. All four through the offside – first two through the vacant cover region, the next two lofted over point. Takes a single off the last ball to boot. Fascinating over that.
Jasprit Bumrah from the other end...
After 5 overs, South Africa 12/3: Hashim Amla walks back! Unlike the previous two dismissals, this one is all down to the shot selection. Not what you expect from Amla. Bhuvi again mixes up the in and outswingers. The one that doesn’t move much from good length tempts Amla to go for a square drive and he edges it to Saha.
South Africa are reeling at 12/3: Bhuvneshwar does it again! This is a dream start.
After 3 overs, SA 7/2: WOW, just WOW! Bhuvneshwar has two wickets in his first two overs. This time it is Aiden Markram. What a set-up – he goes wide of the crease and bowls one full, moving away after angling in but Markram drives well for a four. Next ball it’s full and swinging in and Markram is completely fooled by this, didn’t even get his bat down on time! Given LBW. No review.
After 2 overs, SA 3/1: Mohammad Shami from the other end and he’s still searching for that rhythm, unlike Bhuvi who hit the ground running right away. Nothing dangerous in that over as Markram and Amla get off the mark.
After 1 over, South Africa 0/1: WHAT A START FOR INDIA! Phew, the build up to the Test was fascinating and the first over even more so. Bhuvneshwar starts off with two inswingers to the leftie Dean Elgar that drift down the leg and then follows that up with a beauty of an away moving delivery. Outside edge, Saha takes it. And the Indians erupt in joy. The first ball to Amla was a beauty as well.
Too many changes?
Ashish Magotra’s take on the lineup:
“Three big calls. Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah. Everyone seems to be hailing this as a good, aggressive call but the feeling is that Virat Kohli might have bitten off more than he can chew. Going into the first Test, you also want some stability. Putting three untested players into the mix will mean that India will have to hope the rub of the green goes their way. This is not to say that the players don’t have talent – that they clearly do but how will the lack of experience in the longer format the bowlers and how will Rohit’s technique cope with the moving ball. These are questions that will be front and centre for Kohli and all those watching. It also seems like a decision with the Ravi Shastri stamp all over it.”
Our in-house data expert Anand Katakam chips in with his thoughts.
“Suffice to say, without Ishant and Umesh, the bowling line-up doesn’t inspire that much confidence. Only Bhuvi has a good average outside the subcontinent. And Rahane is India’s best overseas batsmen. I know he had a poor series against Sri Lanka but leaving him out is criminal.”
No Rahane, yes Bumrah
Harsha Bhogle in the studio (why’s he in the studio? Sony’s big series and they have not sent a production team to South Africa? Anyway, I digress...) says this is the boldest team selection call he has seen in his time covering cricket. Here’s some more reaction...
Team updates from the toss:
Faf du Plessis confirms he is playing four pacers. Dale Steyn is back! Virat Kohli says he’d have bowled first on a green, moisture-laden track anyway. And confirms that Bumrah has been the best bowler in preparations. We are still reeling.
S Dhawan, M Vijay, C Pujara, V Kohli, RG Sharma, W Saha, H Pandya, R Ashwin, B Kumar, M Shami, J Bumrah
South Africa XI:
D Elgar, A Markram, H Amla, AB de Villiers, F du Plessis, Q de Kock, V Philander, K Maharaj, D Steyn, K Rabada, M Morkel
Alright, South Africa have won the toss and India will bowl first.
Bumrah in the XI, here’s Ashish Magotra’s take on that:
Wow. Bumrah all set to make his debut. Will become the 290th player to represent India. Does this mean no spinner? Are India going with an all-pace attack? Or is one of the established pacers going to be rested? Bumrah in the India squad is a bigger surprise than Sarfaraz being picked by RCB. Damn. Still reeling. If it comes off, great. But...
BIG NEWS COMING IN:
Well, we did not see that coming. The Indian team management has made a brave call by handing Jasprit Bumrah his Test debut! What does it mean - are India playing four pacers?
Predicting India’s playing XI for first Test
While the matter of fitting star pacer Dale Steyn into the playing XI has landed South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis in a quandary, the story is not very different for Virat Kohli and the Indian team management, who have the unenviable task of reworking their composition which has remained constant through the long home season.
Here’s how we think the team will line-up.
The grass is greener...
“When the sun comes out, it might flatten out. Everybody knows the kind of pitch South Africa want. The grass should help with that,” said Newlands curator Evan Flint.
Read Chetan Narula’s piece from Cape Town HERE
The numbers that show the difference between the two sides
A look at the average numbers of various important parameters shows just what India are up against before the first Test begins.
Read the piece HERE
Numbers game: Breaking down India’s challenge
South Africa, in particular, has presented India with an almighty challenge for over 25 years now. Ever since their first tour of South Africa in 1992, India have always struggled with the bounce, pace and movement on offer. In their last three tours, however, India have won two Tests and came extremely close to winning another on their most recent visit.
Read the full piece HERE