India in South Africa

India v South Africa, 2nd Test, day two as it happened: Kohli stands tall as India struggle

Kohli looks in good touch: Indian batting falters, again, however.
Catching is poor once again: Faf du Plessis takes SA to 335
11 minutes of madness: Read how South Africa lost momentum on day one

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Wrap-up: 3 wickets and 105 runs in a 33-over session. If not for Kohli still remaining unbeaten at 85 at the end of the day, this was South Africa’s day by a distance. The Indian captain seemed to be playing on a different pitch, with a different mindset, facing different bowlers. Won’t be an exaggeration to say Kohli stands between India and a certain defeat.

Before we close, a data check by Anand Katakam: Rohit Sharma’s troubles outside India continue:

STUMPS, day two - India 183/5 (Kohli 85*, Pandya 11*): Another fascinating day of Test cricket comes to an end at Chepauk... err I mean, Centurion. Morkel’s last over is almost a fitting end to the day – there was one ball that landed on good length and went QdK one bounce. This pitch, eh?

After 59 overs, India 177/5: Heading to the close of play here. Pandya has been moving all over the crease in this short innings so far, perhaps trying to put off the bowlers. Kohli has gone into shut-up-shop mode now.

Just realised Vernon Philander has bowled just ONE ball to Virat Kohli in this innings so far as he comes in to bowl now... less than 10 minutes left to play.

Meanwhile, a #WengerOut banner spotted at Centurion as Arsenal lose yet again, this time away at Bournemouth.

After 57 overs, India 170/5: Hardik Pandya plays one of the shots of the day. After a lengthy discussion with Faf, Morkel (with a fly slip in place) bangs one short, and Pandya pulls off the front foot with elan. And holds the pose to make a point. A fist bump with Kohli follows. Kohli then plays out a maiden off Morkel as the pacer targets his 6th maybe 7th stump. Ngidi continues to impress from the other end.

After 54 overs, India 165/5 - Parthiv gone! And just as we were talking about Ngidi’s bowling, he gets his first Test wicket – Parthiv is tempted by a good length ball that is angled in from around the wicket and shapes away, he had to play at it. And QdK takes a simple catch.

After 53 overs, India 159/4: Ngidi is breathing fire on a not-so-helpful pitch. Has already breached the 150-kph and is looking the part. Parthiv is trying to up the ante with two boundaries against the spinner, but there is a rough developing outside his offstump against Maharaj, from where the ball is turning sharp.

After 50 overs, India 145/4: What an over by Lungi Ngidi! A very close call for Kohli as South Africa are convinced beyond doubt when Ngidi appeals for an LBW. Umpire turns it down, but Faf goes upstairs. Fortunately for Kohli, he gets a nick before the ball hit the pads. It was plumb otherwise – all three reds. The leg umpire signalled bat, I think, even before the runs were completed. And, he’s right. What a call. Plumb otherwise.

Here’s Kushal Phatarpekar on Kohli’s innings so far:

Since India made their way to South Africa, focus has been centred around the ability of the Indian players to adapt to the overseas conditions. In Cape Town, the seaming track had exposed the batsmen’s lack of technique. 

Skipper Virat Kohli, who has been India’s most consistent performers during the home season last year, was also dismissed cheaply in both innings. 

At Centurion, the track is quite different, its as Indian as it can possibly get in South Africa. There’s pace and bounce, but no real lateral movement. Given a chance to bat on a wicket that is almost similar to sub-continental conditions - bereft of many demons - it wasn’t a surprise that Kohli took to it like fish to water.

Kohli proved most adept at tackling the two-paced track. He began in typical fashion, stringing together singles as soon as he got in, after a couple of majestic drives. Among all the Indian batsmen before him, Kohli seemed the least worried while facing the pacers. He took on the batsmen and taking minimal time to ‘settle down’. 

Kohli’s positive approach seemed to have rubbed on to partner Murali Vijay too. The two pieced together a crucial 79-run stand.. The stand not only helped reduce the deficit, but also meant South Africa had to ease the field, start containing rather than attacking, which is otherwise the norm in South Africa.

As wickets fall around him, India’s hopes seemed tied to the fate of how this Kohli innings transpires.

So far he’s shown the confidence of a batsman, who is at the top of his game. India need to post a big total from here if they are to make a serious effort at levelling the series. Hopefully, the lower order sticks around long enough for Kohli to do what he does best – dominate the opposition bowlers. 

After 49 overs, India 139/4: What a spell this is by Rabada. Parthiv has to face four balls of this man who is on fire – it’s four good length balls on and outside off stump followed by a brilliant in-dipping yorker that was heading to uproot middle stump. Parthiv digs it out late. Nervy times for India this. He is looking comfortable against Maharaj though, decisive with his footwork.

As Rohit’s struggle outside subcontinent continues, here’s a poll for you:

After 46 overs, India 132/4: End of yet another Rohit Sharma innings – his scores so far on this series 11, 10, 10 – and once again his footwork comes under the scanner. He is stuck at the crease to the ball that tails in – reversing at speed – and the ball hits Rohit on the back leg. That was a beautiful set-up, fast bowling at its best.

After 45 overs, India 129/3: The scoring rate has dropped in this session - 22 runs from the last 10 overs - and for the first time in this innings, Rohit plays an aggressive stroke – dancing down and hitting Maharaj over mid-on for a four.

After 43 overs, India 121/3: Close call for Kohli. He’s struck on the pads by Rabada. Umpire turns down the appeal, but South Africa don’t go for a review. Replays show the ball would have just gone over the stumps. This is a solid spell from Rabada, probing both batsmen outside the offstump. That ball to Kohli nipped back in just a bit.

After 38 overs, India 108/3: So often, one wicket brings two and perhaps for the first time in this innings, Kohli is beaten outside offstump by a good length ball by Rabada that deviated off the pitch – good over that. Rohit Sharma, meanwhile, is off to a watchful start.

Here’s the statistic that backs up our observation about Vijay being frustrated by Maharaj.

India 107/3 after 37 overs - M Vijay gone! This was on the cards. Like we observed earlier, Vijay has been playing that late cut against Maharaj for far too many times without actually any joy - kept finding the fielder at point. And this time, the ball is slightly fuller and the cut short was not on, he knicks it to QdK - gone for 46.

India 107/2 after 36 overs: Fifty for the Indian captain! Morkel goes for the short ball again, and it’s a controlled pull shot to midwicket for a couple of runs. A 68-ball half century, he’s hardly put a foot wrong since coming in to bat. The dressing room stands up in appreciation, Shastri has a proud look on his face. Muted celebration from Kohli, but that should change if he gets 50 more. His 16th half century in Tests, by the way.

India 100/2 after 34 overs: Startegy change alert! It was only a matter of time I suppose. Morkel goes around the wicket to Vijay - first 2 balls are way over Vijay’s head, 3rd is well-directed at the ribs, 4th is pulled away, fully in control, for a single. Same strategy to Kohli, who ducks first ball and calmly flicks the last ball to square leg.

India 100/2 after 33 overs: Kohli one run away from his fifty. Maharaj is now settling into a rhythm, getting turn and a hint of extra bounce as Vijay keeps finding the fielder at point while attempting the cut.

India 93/2 after 30 overs (Vijay 38, Kohli 45): Good start for India to the final session, two runs from Maharaj’s over followed by 11 from Morkel’s. “These guys are looking in total control at the moment,” says Mike Haysman on air and it’s tough to argue. A majestic flick through midwicket by Vijay followed by an elegant straight drive from Kohli, who’s now 5 short of a 50.

6:30 pm: Back for the final session, Maharaj to bowl. 36 overs left for the day.

At tea, India 80/2 after 28 overs (Vijay 31, Kohli 39): Well, that session flew past! So much happening, despite the pitch not offering anything. Test cricket can do that to you sometimes. It started well for India with Vijay and Rahul looking untroubled with the new ball and then in one Morkel over, India lost Rahul and Pujara off consecutive balls. And out came Virat Kohli with a lot of purpose (a different word, just for a change) and took the initiative away from South Africa.

After 27 overs, India 80/2: Tea approaching and India have recovered nicely after those early wickets. The partnership between Kohli and Vjay has crossed 50 – Kohli has made 39 runs out of those 52 runs. No doubt over who is dominating the proceedings – Kohli has hardly put a foot wrong since coming into bat. Maharaj getting some turn but nothing that would bother Indian batsmen – Kohil rocks back and cuts one past point as if to make a point. Philander is bowling with Quinton de Kock standing up to the stumps - a ploy that got Ashwin out first ball at Newlands. Vijay managing alright so far.

After 24 overs, India 72/2: Vijay and Kohli are in control of things at the moment. Really shouldn’t have lost those two wickets on this pitch, but these two have steadied the ship. It was a four-over spell for Ngidi and now Philander and Morkel are bowling in tandem. Vijay plays one of the shots of the day - Philander just offers a few inches of width and cuts it off the back foot late and beats the fielder at deep point.

After just one over for Morkel in the spell, Maharaj comes on...

After 20 overs, India 60/2: This is a nice little spell to start his international career by Lungi Ngidi. Just six runs from his four overs so far, including two maidens. Kohli slowed down a bit as he gets a feel of what Ngidi can offer, checking with Vijay at the non-striker’s end if the ball is moving in. He is leaving outside his off stump well, that’s usually a sign that he is seeing the ball well.

After 17 overs, India 56/2: Kohli has moved on to 24 off 27 balls, with his fourth boundary, this one off Rabada flicked past midwicket by fetching it from offstump.

Meanwhile, here’s Ashish Magotra on #Intent:

Cheteshwar Pujara will not beat Virat Kohli in a 100m sprint. In fact, he probably won’t even finish in the same frame and he knows that. He knows that he isn’t the fastest cricketer around and he also knows that he is on the team for a different reason.

So then what in the world prompted him to hit the ball to mid-on and set off for a quick single from the very first ball he faced? Some might argue that it was anxiousness to get off the mark. Just to get things going, get the feet moving and all that jazz.

Others might feel – as Jonty Rhodes said in the commentary – that in Indian grounds you don’t expect a fast bowler to pick up the ball and throw down the stumps. This would have been an easy single. 

Still, one suspects, most will feel that this dismissal was down to Virat Kohli’s favourite word: intent.

Pujara is comfortable batting 20 balls and not scoring a single run. His mentality is different from other batsmen and he has shown that many times before. But with the Indian skipper harping on intent and pushing others to play cricket his way, maybe Pujara started feeling the strain too.

After all, Pujara has been dropped from the Test team earlier for not scoring quickly enough. Would he want that to happen to him again? The judgement was bad no doubt but feels like there is so much more to this.  

After 15 overs, India 49/2: Kohli has started with a 100-plus strike rate but Vijay is own calm self at the other end, After his twin failures at Newlands, there’s a lot riding on him. Plays a lovely cover drive off the last ball of Rabada’s over after playing five dot balls.

DRINKS - After 14 overs, India 45/2: As we recover from that over of madness from India, Kohli is off to a good start, showing plenty of intent (yeah, we are not that done with that word yet). Two boundaries off the first two balls in Morkel’s 6th over of the spell – the first a full-blooded cover drive, the second a fantastic straight drive. Ngidi comes into the attack (remember the term “big unit” that’s often used in football? He is that and some!) and bowls a maiden at Kohli. Great first over by the youngster, getting some good lift at good pace.

After 11 overs, India 29/2: One run from that over – another needless quick single called by Kohli but Vijay is alert enough. But forget that over, let’s talk about that Pujara run-out.

Have you ever seen Pujara be in a hurry to get off the mark? Have you ever seen him be over-eager to start his innings with? Have you ever seen him be a quick-runner between the wickets? This is just bizarre. Rahul plays a needless shot and gets out. Pujara takes a needless run and is run out. But, importantly, they showed ‘intent’ right?

After 10 overs, India 28/2: Oh dear, what have you done KL Rahul. Actually, scratch that. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE PUJARA! Two wickets in one over and boy, oh, boy are India in trouble? He was looking largely untroubled but Morkel’s persistence pays off. This was full on the stumps, imminently driveable but Rahul checks his straight drive and Morkel takes a good tumbling catch.

And the next ball, Pujara’s first, he taps it to mid-on and takes off for a suicidal run and is out by more than a yard. Lungi Ngidi gets a direct hit with just one stump to aim at.

After 8 overs, India 28/0: The slips have come in quite a bit when Philander is bowling because the carry is not there. ABD is standing in third slip with helmet on! Rahul comes well forward against Philander and playing with soft hands. Morkel from the other end is getting more bounce naturally but this is not the steep bounce that worries India. Vijay confidently playing shots every time the ball is in line with the stumps. Rahul gets a boundary off the last ball of the 8th over, playing a tennis shot over cover off the back foot. Some good ground fielding by South Africa has kept the boundary count to four - could have been more.

Makes you wonder if this is Centurion or Chepauk?

After 5 overs, India 14/0: Morkel gets one to beat Vijay’s outside edge but it’s been largely comfortable for the Indian openers so far. Philander typically bowling stump-to-stump, and there is just a hint of low bounce.

After 3 overs, India 11/0: Morkel and Philander bowling in tandem to start the session and the Indian openers look in good touch. Rahul gets his first boundary with a neat flick off Morkel. Vijay starts Philander’s over with a flick through midwicket for 3. Rahul sees the rest of the over off.

Meanwhile at MCG...

04:10 pm: All set for second session and a test for India’s batting.

Lunch time read: One that takes us away from the cricket and straight to Australia where the amazing Roger Federer is all set to take another go at the Australian Open. He won the title last year with almost no one expecting him to but this time round, he starts as favourite – with the fans and the bookies.

Read Praveen Sudevan’s piece on whether 2018 with be a repeat of the amazing 2017 season for Federer.

Some stats trickling in: Keshav Maharaj is the first South Africa spinner in over 100 years to open the bowling in first innings. Last was Aubrey Faulkner v Aus in 1912.

LUNCH - India 4/0 after 1 over: Wait, what? South Africa get one over – something openers hate – and Faf gives the ball to Keshav Maharaj. He starts with a juicy full toss that Vijay drives for four. Five dot balls to follow with Vijay repeatedly driving at Elgar at silly point. Inside edge off the last ball goes past short leg and the players break for lunch.

Innings break: India will bat for an over before lunch.

Here’s Ashish Magotra, on India (and Kohli’s catching):

There are things that we associate with the Indian cricket team – great spin bowlers, wristy batsmen, batting records, domination at home, troubles away. And now to that list, we can add bad slip fielding. Over and over again, in match after match – India somehow find ways to make things difficult for themselves by dropping chances in the slips.

No catch in the slips is easy but if you are standing there for your national team, you can be expected to take them. Virat Kohli – with all his energy – seems like a bad fit. He often goes at the ball hard and too often, he seems distracted with captaincy and perhaps even the need to chat up the batsmen.

Rahul Dravid, India’s greatest slip fielder, had this to say about fielding in the slips:

“Firstly you should enjoy it. You should want it to be there. It is a position where you’ve got to concentrate the whole day, where you are always in the game.

“Then you’ve got to take a lot of catches. There is no substitute to taking a lot of a catches as a youngster if you want to do slip catching - you’ve got to catch, catch, catch. And more than doing the normal stuff, you have to vary your catching - you’ve got to take some catches with the tennis ball, you got to take some closer, some further away.

“One of the important things I have found with slip catching is, you need to have relaxed hands. When an edge is coming towards you, the last thing you want to do is tighten up or freeze or snatch at the ball.”

The last part is what Kohli consistently does wrong. All those things make him very good in the outfield but in the slips, that just won’t cut it. Truth to be said, Rahane has been missed in a big way.

A ball later, India messed up again and gave Rabada another life. Hardik Pandya and Mohammad Shami conspired to drop the easiest of catches. And Parthiv put down a chance off Faf du Plessis as well. This will come back to hurt India. Perhaps, it already has?

South Africa are 335 all out: And Ashwin finally has the wicket he deserved this morning. He has been quality throughout this innings and he gets his fourth wicket. Tempts Morkel into playing a big shot by flighting it up, Morkel obliges and finds Vijay in the deep.

84 runs added by the last four wickets, thanks to India’s poor catching.

Cricket and it's protocols, eh?

After 113 overs, SA 333/9 - Faf du Plessis is gone and Kohli is celebrating from the slips (probably relieved that he didn’t have to take a catch) – Ishant takes it upon himself, rattles the stumps. This is full, fast and dipping in and Faf goes for the big shot and misses it.

After 111 overs, SA 324/8: Rabada gone! Ishant Sharma gets back into the attack and breaks a very handy 42-run partnership between Rabada and Faf. The former has lived a charmed life and he now pulls a short ball to deep square leg where Pandya dives forward and takes a good catch. Finally someone takes a chance on offer.

After 110 overs, SA 324/7: AND ANOTHER CATCH DROPPED! Parthiv Patel drops his second catch of the innings and this is very costly, this is off Faf. No excuse from Parthiv – this is brilliant bowling by Ashwin and he gets Faf to play a false shot, a thin edge and it pops right out.

But Saha is 'injured' though, right?

After 109 overs, SA 218/7: Fifty for Faf du Plessis! The Captain struggled in the morning but he has come into his own now and farming the strike and shepherding the tail masterfully. And Rabada moves into double figures too.

After 106 overs, SA 302/7: India are doing that thing again where they have no clue how to clean up the opposition’s tail. Faf is now starting to farm the strike, especially against Ashwin. Pandya comes in to the attack and Faf takes the attack to him as well, with a powerful push past point – another poor effort in the field.

Here’s Angikaar Choudhury’s take on Kohli and slip-catching:

It’s time Kohli and Shastri take a good, hard look at why Kohli needs to be at slip. The intensity and “intent” he brings is admirable with the constant chatter. But to be honest, you don’t need that in the slips. Look at the greats...Mark Waugh, Azhar, Kallis, Dravid...they were temperamentally sound and knew when to switch on or off. Kohli continuing in slips is hurting India. Shastriji, bite the bullet, tell the captain “Boss, you’re not a slip fielder. Please marshall your troops from mid-off”.  

— @angikaarc

DRINKS: After 104 overs, SA 292/7: “Time for drinks and time for contemplation,” says Harsha Bhogle. Atrocious over for India as R Ashwin would be right to lose his head at his captain and his fielders – two dropped catches off two consecutive balls as Rabada survives. First, Kohli is the culprit yet again as Rabada edges it, it goes low to Kohli’s right but catchable any day, anywhere, and he lazily goes with one hand and puts it down. Next one is even more ridiculous, as Shami and Pandya run into each other and make a mess of a sitter.

Personal opinion alert: Match after match after match, you prove you are not good enough to be a slip fielder and yet to continue to place yourself there. Ridiculous from Kohli.

After 103 overs, South Africa 288/7: Ashwin and Shami bowling in tandem now and really, that should have been the combination (or at least half of it) to start the day. Shami looks a different bowler this morning with his pace and subtle movement beating the bats of Rabada and even Faf. The South Africa captain finally gets a boundary after trying and trying, a cover drive off Shami.

India would do well to not let the tail wag again...

After 99 overs, South Africa 282/7: And the bowling change brings a wicket. Shami gets Maharaj to play at a ball on the fourth stump and gets the outside edge that gives him his 100th Test wicket – the 3rd fastest Indian to get there. There was just a hint of away movement.

After 98 overs, South Africa 281/6: 30 minutes and 8 overs down and still no signs of R Ashwin. Maharaj plays the shot of the morning off Ishant – slightly short and wide, he square drives for four despite there being a fielder at deep point. Another steady over from Bumrah at the other end.

And the first change of the morning – Shami comes on.

OUCH!

After 96 overs, South Africa 276/6: Bumrah has hit Faf below his abdominal region a fair few times this morning with his skiddy action and the ball angling back in. Faf does play a beautiful cover drive, and hoped the shackles would be broken, but Shami dives and saves well. Maharaj looks (like he did in the first Test) quite comfortable at the other end, just the occasional play and miss. The slip cordon is chirpy this morning.

After 94 overs, South Africa 274/6: And India lose their second review for the innings. Not quite as ridiculous as the caught behind that Kohli imagined had taken the outside edge, but this is pretty bad. Bumrah struck Faf on the pads. Umpire turns down the appeal, but Kohli asks for a review, which shows the ball would have gone over the stumps. Good lines so far from Ishant and Bumrah today so far.

Meanwhile in the Under 19 World Cup...

Day two underway

After 92 overs, South Africa 271/6: Ishant Sharma starts with a 3-over-old ball and there is some good inswing on show. The first ball saw a hopeful appeal with Faf shouldering arms and the ball tailing back in and hitting the pads. Too high though. The captain takes a single off the last ball to retain strike.

Bumrah from the other end. And it’s a probing over to Maharaj after Faf takes a single off the first ball – that one actually kept one after pitching in line with the stump and caught Faf by surprise.

Focus on the pitch again

01:25 pm: Pollock and Smith are expecting attritional cricket on day two on a pitch that has confused almost everyone. They do think the South Africa pacers can get more out of this wicket going by Ishant’s performance on day one.

Looking back on day one

It was South Africa’s day. India had very little to cheer. And then eleven minutes of madness.

And we have still not come to terms with the Bhuvneshwar Kumar exclusion. Have you?

All set for day two

01:05 pm: Hello all and welcome to the live blog of the second day of the second Test. For most of day one, the discussion was around India’s team selection (have you made sense of it yet?) and the pitch. And then suddenly, South Africa do the thing that South Africa often do and gave the momentum back to India in the final session. What’s on store for day 2?

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