Pujara’s vigil ends: India suffer another collapse, all out for 187
Series done, pride at stake: Can Virat Kohli’s men bounce back?
To join the conversation, send an email to email@example.com. We’ll feature your comments in the live blog.
Wrap-up: As we observed earlier, having lost the toss, dropped (nearly) half a dozen catches, taken a wicket off a no-ball and missed a Pujara LBW review when he was on zero - this is a great day in the office for South Africa, trailing India by 181 runs. This was another day where plenty of questions will be asked about some of the decisions taken by Indian batsmen on the pitch and the think tank, off the pitch. But, as it stands, the Test hangs in the balance and the Indian bowlers must hope to trouble SA early on day two.
Join us for more action on day two, promises a lot.
DATA CHECK: ‘We are not getting the partnerships’ was another one of Kohli’s complaints about his batting unit. As this chart shows, today was no different either.
STUMPS, South Africa 6/1 after 6 overs: Rabada plays out the final over with Elgar taking his gloves and taking his spot at the non-striker’s end almost like a statue. So 11 wickets fell in the day on a spicy Jo’burg track. South Africa, one presumes, would be the happier side tonight after having lost the toss.
After 5 overs, South Africa 6/1: ‘I cannot understand under what conditions you drop someone like Bhuvi from the team,’ says Michael Holding as he bowls a couple of beautiful away swingers to the left-hander Elgar from around the wicket. This is brilliant new ball bowling. Everything right about the line and length, and Elgar just about avoids getting his bat on to those. Bumrah at the other end had hit Elgar again on the thigh that caused a bit of a delay.
Last over coming up... Bumrah to Rabada.
After 3 overs, South Africa 3/1: And a good new ball bowler, strikes with the new ball by getting it to swing and deceive a top order batsman. Who could have thought, eh? This is a peach by Bhuvi - lands short of a good length in the channel, the ball shapes away late and takes the outside edge. Parthiv takes an easy catch and Bhuvi celebrates. ‘He should never have been dropped,’ exclaims Haysman on air. Tough to argue there.
Bowls a couple of rippers to the nightwatchman Rabada to complete the over.
After 2 overs, South Africa 3/0: Bhuvi and Bumrah start proceedings for India with the brand new red cherry. Bhuvi gets the shape away from Markram going, and the ball that’s supposed to do the damage - the one that jags back in - is too close to Markram, who flicks it away for two. Bumrah with a decent over to Elgar at the other end, who starts off like he always starts off - shaky, getting a couple of blows on the body, looking like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. But, like he most always does, survives and plays out a maiden over.
08:35 pm: South Africa’s brief innings underway. Meanwhile, here’s a poll for you...
Innings-break: Looks like South Africa will have to bat about 5-6 overs. In the meanwhile, this doesn’t make for good reading if you are an Indian fan.
Data check by Anand Katakam:
India all out for 187 in 76.4 overs: Faf has had enough with Bhuvi’s antics and asks Rabada to go around the stumps and bowl short-short-short. Bhuvi obliges with a miscued pull to midwicket. A frustrating last wicket partnership from a South Africa point of view but having lost the toss, dropped (nearly) half a dozen catches, taken a wicket off a no-ball and missed a Pujara review when he was on zero - this is a great effort.
India’s batting? It was not a one-man show, Pujara joined Kohli in showing some fight - but the less said about the rest, the better.
After 76 overs, India 187/9: The runs are flowing now! (Well, sort of) Bhuvi is farming the strike - scampering for byes off the last ball to keep Bumrah off strike and he has moved on to 30, courtesy a brutal straight drive, lofted over Ngidi’s head and a pull shot that he had no clue where it was going. Is 200 a possibility?
Overheard by the blogger: Bhuvi is a better seam-bowling allrounder than Hardik Pandya, what’s the point of having two of them in the XI?
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.
After 74 overs, India 177/9: One of the most bizarre passages of play in the series. Rabada pitches it on the fourth stump, good length - the ball lands on a crack presumably and cuts back like a proper off-break! Goes past QdK for four. Bumrah had no clue what happened and presumably, neither did the bowler or the slip cordon. Just to add to the bizarreness, Faf decides to review for LBW - the call is changed from byes to leg-byes, thanks to that. Must be a stickler for rules, this Faf.
A couple of meaty blows by Bhuvi off Philander at the other end and he has moved on to 21 off 35 - another handy lower order innings.
After 72.1 overs, India 166/8 - Ishant gone: Not quite Pujara’s 53-ball effort to get off the mark, but Ishant is gone for a duck of his 12th ball. Rabada gets one full and swinging slightly away, Ishant digs it out but the outside goes to Faf, who takes a nice catch low and diving forward.
After 70 overs, India 164/8: The sparse crowd seems to be having some fun in the sun now (perhaps the beers are kicking in, eh). Meanwhile, Bhuvi - arguably India’s best batsman from the first Test - and Ishant have negotitated a couple of quite overs. Not by choice though, with Philander getting some terrific outswing again (fast legbreaks, as the parlance goes) and Bhuvi getting beaten. (As a bowler though, he’d be quite loving that sight even if the scoreboard makes for abysmal reading). Ishant doing his dogged-defending thing at the other end.
After 68 overs, India 163/8: - Shami gone: Hey, when your better batsmen play poor shots and get out, what can you expect from the tailenders. Shami has been itching to get out ever since he came out to bat and this is a one-handed heave from Shami off Philander. Swinging Shami goes down swinging.
Sensible Test cricket is so not in vogue right now with this Indian team.
Data check: This has been an all-too-familiar batting display by India. Lessons learnt? Nothing, perhaps, except Pujara.
After 66 overs, India 156/7: In the aftermath of describing *that shot* by Pandya, Bhuvneshwar’s most elegant cover drive in the very over got overlooked. Shami, in the next over, doesn’t have much clue against Morkel’s pace and bounce. A streaky four past the man placed between slips and third man and a bouncer that he fended off to where silly point would have been without knowing where he was. Shami also survives a dropped chance (tough at short mid-on, diving forward) off Phehlukwayo.
After 64 overs, India 150/7: Oh dear, yet another forgettable moment for Hardik Pandya! India have lost their third wicket with the score on 144. He steps down to Phehlukwayo, and with no room to pull, still goes ahead with a pre-meditated front foot pull shot. He has skied that and QdK takes another good catch - those backwards-running swervers are never easy but he made it look so.
Personal opinion: Ridiculous, ridiculous batting from the youngster who has completely lost his head since that fabulous innings at Newlands in the first innings. Poor shots galore ever since - showing a lack of application to the situation he is in. “That’s his game,” is an excuse that will quickly wear thin if he continues to play reckless cricket.
After 63 overs, India 144/6 - Parthiv gone: Morkel bounces out Parthiv and as we predicted, Pujara’s dismissal might just open up the floodgates. He dings it in short, Parthiv looks to cut it but can only manage an edge which is caught neatly behind the stumps by de Kock. Was done in by the steep bounce that is the bane for many a visiting batsman in South Africa.
After 62 overs, India 144/5 - PUJARA GONE! Well just like his captain, Pujara falls immediately after his half century. This could be a crucial blow for India with a very ordinary-looking lower order today. Pujara did all the hard work against the fearsome foursome but ends up losing his wicket to the fifth seamer in Phehlukwayo! He hangs his bat out at a wide ball that moves back in a tad bit, but still outside stump - he has been letting them go all day. He guides it into QdK’s gloves almost and that’s a soft dismissal after a hard-fought innings.
After 61 overs, India 143/4 - FIFTY FOR CHE! What a patient innings this has been. The most fitting way to get to this landmark would have been a forward defensive shot but seeing as it is unlikely to fetch runs, a patiently run two after a cut shot to point is the next most fitting way one would think. It’s taken him 173 balls to get there. It might have taken him a long time to reach the landmark, but India will be happy he’s still at the crease.
After 60 overs, India 141/4: - Pujara 48*, Parthiv 1*: Pujara has definitely found his scoring groove now. This is excellent batting on display. After that cover drive off Ngidi’s previous over, he now rocks back and cuts a short and wide ball past point for four. Ngidi is looking visibly exhausted right now. Phehlukwayo comes back into the attack after his original 3-over spell and Che Pu welcomes him with a fine leg glance for four. Parthiv and Che are having running troubles however though. There was a one-two confusion early on and now Parthiv takes off running after a tap to cover but Pujara is not interested at all. A fumble by the fielder saves either batsman.
After 57 overs, India 129/4: Ngidi bowled an absolute peach to Pujara in the previous over - full, swinging late, tempting Pujara and beating the outside edge - but in the following over, Pujara does well to cover any potential swing off a similar delivery and plays his most-confident looking shot of the day - cover drive for four. Parthiv plays out a maiden to Rabada, looking rather untroubled so far.
Play resumes for the final session, India 117/4 after 54 overs: Rabada starts off and Pujara moves on to 30 with an on-drive and a mis-field by Morkel gifting him three precious runs.
Meanwhile, here’s Kushal Phatarpekar, on Kohli’s interesting half century:
With the series already lost and a another green, seaming track on offer, the odds were heavily stacked against the visitors at the Wanderers. A sloppy South Africa, though, gave them several reprieves during the first two sessions. Dropped catches, missed DRS review and a wicket off no ball - luck favoured India considerably, after a brave call to bat first.
Except for Kohli, other batsmen are yet to make most of those chances, though.
Pujara struggled to get going, While he is still at the crease (27 off 145 balls at tea), he isn’t quite making the SA bowlers sweat. Rahane got a reprieve but departed soon after.
Kohli, as has become a trend nowadays, remained one of India’s only real hope on Wednesday.
While the other batsmen went into a shell after their close shaves, Kohli maitained his demeanour and batted with in...err, purpose.
It was one of his most uncharacteristic knocks. There were plenty of edges and mis-hits, but they were interspersed with a few delectable drives to the boundary rope.
From 13/2, Kohli helped steady the ship which was left rocking after the openers departed. Pujara’s struggle to get off the mark, only made Kohli’s task more difficult. He was playing his shots and did not shy away from taking on the bowlers, even though the conditions were against him.
Unlike his teammates who fell prey early on, Kohli did adopt a measured approach when he deemed fit. He couldn’t keep it up, though. After reaching his fifty, he looked to go on the offensive and fell in the process.
The knock of 54 has given India some hope, but its now up to their lower order. But, by the look of things that seems to be easier said than done.
Chai pe charcha: No question that Pujara has batted with determination to remain unbeaten at tea: 27 off 145 Do you think he needs to score a tad more briskly to keep the scoreboard ticking? Or is he doing just fine?
Here’s Angikaar Chaudhury’s take:
Apropos Pujara’s slow strike rate, I’d rather have him block all day rather than try and do anything stupid. While I understand it’s rather frustrating, it’s better to have him survive and hold up an end and take the innings as deep as possible. India have plenty of strokemakers and it’s their job to get the momentum going. It’s not really Pujara’s fault that none of them are able to do it. But he shouldn’t try and do their job. That could be disastrous.
After 53 overs, India 114/4: That is tea. 69 runs, 2 wickets in that session. 22 runs for Pujara! Monumental effort, compared to his first session effort. The highlight of that session was undoubtedly Kohli’s 54. Lived by the sword (there were some scintillating drives both sides of cover in that innings) and died by the sword (an outside edge off an attempted cover drive against Ngidi, the ball moving ever so late and ABD taking a good catch.) And Rahane is gone too, and that makes it South Africa’s session just because India’s batting lacks depth.
Does Pujara need to make a move on here?
After 52 overs, India 113/4 - Rahane gone! India are in trouble at the Wanderers. Morkel makes it move inside and that’s the ball that has troubled India all day. The umpire raises his finger seeing Rahane’s leg stump on view after he falls over. There’s an obvious review, but the decision remains with the on-field umpire - just about though. Kohli doesn’t seem pleased by “umpire’s call” there. Rahane departs for 9,few balls after playing a wonderful cover drive for four.
After 51 overs, India 109/3: And Pujara finally moves on from 22. A very good defensive effort from Pujara is slowly turning into a criticism-worthy knock as India’s innings is going nowhere. After blunting the new ball, you’d have thought Pujara would look to score runs in the second session but he has made this into such a slug fest that even the full balls, the ones that are there to be driven, are not leaving the 22-yard square. He has lost his timing it seems. And finally off that last ball, he cuts and cuts hard to get a boundary over slips.
After 49 overs, India 102/3 - RAHANE SURVIVES! Is that the stroke of luck that Rahane needed to get back into form? This is a peach of a delivery by Philander. Pitches on the fourth stump, good length and deviates late - a near unplayable ball (could have been left alone by a batsman in good form, but Rahane isn’t right now). It takes the outside edge, QdK takes it. Rahane walks back. BUT HANG ON! Philander, of all people, has overstepped! A no-ball and a massive reprieve for Rahane. And for India.
After 46 overs, India 100/3: Just past the half-way mark for the day, India have reached 100! Pujara nudges this between mid-on and short leg for a single and yells ‘no! no!’ when Rahane turns back. He’s on to 22 off 122 balls now.
After 45 overs, India 99/3: What a crucial phase this is in the context of the match and more importantly, in the context of the controversy surrounding Rahane’s exclusion in the first two Tests and the inclusion today. A pressure situation overseas - this is how Rahane broke his bread and this is where he can earn his place back. Ngidi is in the middle of a fantastic spell too. Pujara, meanwhile, has dropped anchor again it looks like.
After 43 overs, India 97/3 - KOHLI GONE! And there’s that Ngidi smile again. Michael Holding is very happy with the length that Ngidi has bowled here. This is full and moving away, despite being outside off stump and Kohli is tempted to drive and is done in. The outside edge flies to ABD at third slip - and he’s almost taken aback by how quickly this has come at him but despite being swept off his feet he manages to hold on. What a big wicket for South Africa! A rare failure for Kohli when it comes to converting a fifty.
After 42 overs, India 95/2: Fifty for Virat Kohli! Gets there with a powerful pull shot off Rabada and raises the bat to acknowledge the cheers for what has been a fighting innings. He has been dropped twice, he edged, he played and missed, and he fought on.
DRINKS, India 91/2 after 41 overs: India have doubled their score in the one hour (and 14 overs) since the lunch break. The scoring rate has gone down in the back end though, with 11 runs in the last five bowlers. An interesting phase too, with Kohli beginning to show some frustration. Does Kohli really think there are quick singles on offer here? Unnecessarily putting himself under pressure, knowing well that Pujara is not the quickest.
South Africa too, have looked lackluster - the line has been too wide to create consistent chances as well.
After 39 overs, India 84/2: A strange innings this is by Kohli. Some gorgeous shots, interspersed with some questionable shot-making. It’s a challenging pitch alright but Kohli has played some bad shots off some bad balls too - the latest being a chase wide outside off stump off Morkel. Pujara plays out a maiden over at the other end off Rabada, leaving everything that’s in the channel and brings up his 100 (of balls faced). An interesting over from Ngidi next up - Kohli frustrated by the lack of quick singles, beaten outside off playing the off drive and then recalibrates and starts leaving again.
After 36 overs, India 79/2: Wow, Kohli is indeed living a charmed life today. An inside edge off a full ball from Morkel that dipped back in misses the stump by a whisker and goes to fine leg for four. Perilously close to being dismissed there but Kohli gets four and moves into the 40s. And as chancy as this innings has been, he has played some gorgeous shots too. The first ball of that Morkel over was driven, all class, past the bowler for four. And off the next over, Rabada gets driven through the cover for four as well. Kohli’s on 47 now.
After 33 overs, India 65/2 - KOHLI survives again! An atrocious ball by Morkel. Atrocious shot by Kohli. Atrocious drop by ABD. Bad cricket by everyone concerned says Holding. Indeed it is. This is just bizarre. Morkel goes short and wide - very short and very wide, in fact - and Kohli goes fishing, trying to pull this (?) and it takes a bottom edge and goes straight to ABD, who must not have expected this ball to come to second slip by any means. Clearly taken aback and he drops a sitter.
Meanwhile at the Australian Open... one man keeps on carrying on.
After 31 overs, India 63/2: Back-to-back boundaries for Pujara! That too off Philander. That goes in our headline, I would think. The moment Philander goes short and wide Pujara punishes him and gets some much-needed runs besides his name. His strike rate is into double figures now. 17 runs in the last 3 overs for India. That’s a meteoric rise in the scoring rate. Kohli plays a majestic off drive against Morkel as well.
After 28 overs, India 46/2: Stop the press, Philander has not bowled a maiden over. Pujara gets bat on to a in-swinger and the inside edge goes to fine leg for a single. That’s off the fifth ball. Michael Holding, meanwhile, is not happy with the line have bowled to Pujara, looking at the beehive. Pujara has left too many balls alone, he feels.
04:10 pm: India resume batting in the second session. The remarkable Philander (with figures of 8-7-1-1) is back into the attack.
Almost set for play to resume: In the meantime, some not-so-happy lunch-time reading if you are an India fan (or Kohli fan). Kohli’s constant tinkering has left pundits, fans, and former cricketers flummoxed during the South Africa series. Leaving out Ajinkya Rahane for the first Test and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the second in particular, came for plenty of criticism.
Read more here.
Virender Sehwag, for instance:
“I think, Virat Kohli needs some players who can point out his mistakes on the field. Every team has four-five players who advise the skipper and help him avoid mistakes on the field,” Sehwag said.
“I don’t see that in the current Indian squad. There’s no one in the squad who can challenge Kohli’s selection decision in the dressing room. No player is up to his standard.”
Lunch break continues: Were South Africa too short in the first session? Their bowlers were good but Faf would have liked a few more wickets.
03:45 pm: Social media buzz...
Lunch-time: 45 runs. 27 overs. Plenty of plays and misses. A dropped catch. A wrong no-call for review by Faf du Plessis. What an absorbing start to proceedings.
Here’s Ashish Magotra’s take on some fascinating Test cricket:
India ended the first session on 45-2 after 27 overs and they would be pretty glad about that. If Philander had managed to hold on to that chance from Kohli (who was then on 11), and Faf decided to review a close LBW call against Pujara, then things would have been very different.
But they have managed to weather the early storm on a green wicket and lost only the openers in the bargain. The talk of the session was obviously the manner in which Cheteshwar Pujara approached his innings. It was only off the 54th ball he faced that the right-hander got off the mark. Some might argue that it was too slow and perhaps it was but what matters is that at the end of the session he is still there – with 5 off 66 balls. He has also played out time and the ball is older now.
Kohli has looked to be aggressive when he has had the opportunity but batting on this wicket has been anything but easy. Still, he has looked to score runs and that has been the difference between the two batsmen in the middle.
Philander’s spell in the morning session was an incredible 8-7-1-1 and after lunch, he will get another crack at the batsmen. It will be crucial for Kohli and Pujara to play that spell out as well given that India have just five specialist batsmen in the line-up.
After 27 overs, India 45/2 - LUNCH: Almost fittingly, the first session ends with two maiden overs. Pujara negotiates Ngidi - one half played-half missed and one, a painful blow to his inner thigh. There is no breaking Pujara’s resolution though, he stays put. Kohli plays out a maiden at the other end too off Phehlukwayo, thanks to the outstretched-leg of the bowler saving a certain boundary. Pujara and Kohli fist-bump each other on the way back on what has been a fantastic rearguard action after going down 13/2.
A brilliant, brilliant first session of Test cricket.
After 25 overs, India 45/2: Pujara continues to score rapidly since getting off the mark, he has now made 5 runs off the last 6 balls he has faced. It looks like India want to take on the fifth seamer Phehlukwayo (they have to target someone, don’t they?) and Kohli goes hard at a short, wide ball and gets four for it. Kohli has now scored 24 out of India’s 45 runs.
After 23 overs, India 39/2: PUJARA IS OFF THE MARK! This is #BreakingNews worthy, eh? Flicks Ngidi to square leg and there’s plenty of cheering going around the Wanderers. The Indian dugout is celebrating this like he has scored a fifty, even Pujara is all smiles. This is great to see. And Pujara ups the ante immediately in the next over off Phehlukwayo, scoring 3 more runs to move to 4 off 58 balls. Madness, I tell you!
After 21 overs, India 31/2 - KOHLI DROPPED! Oh dear, this could be a big moment in this match. Presumably frustrated from the lack of runs, Kohli instinctively goes for a big pull shot when Rabada bangs on in short. HE’s very late to the shot and is hurried into playing this, the bottom edge loops up and Philander misjudges it at short cover and puts down a fairly simple change. Miscommunication over who was going for it? Rabada is livid.
After 20 overs, India 27/2: Runs with Pujara on strike.... but it’s leg byes! A cheer goes up around the ground. This is fascinating stuff! Ngidi into the attack now. And from the other end, Kohil plays a couple of on drives to score a couple of twos. Ngidi to Pujara and it’s another maiden! FIFTY UP FOR PUJARA AND IT’S A FIFTY LIKE NO OTHER! 51 balls and counting, he’s still not off the mark.
Come on, Che Pu! Go for the record.
After 17 overs, India 20/2: It’s now Kohli’s turn to play out a maiden against Philander. Goodness, what a spell this is turning into. Pujara meanwhile almost gets off the mark against Rabada with a couple of soft-handed outside edges but the slip cordon is not making his life easy. Great hustling by the South African fielders.
PUJARA: 0 off 43 balls right now!
After 15 overs, India 20/2: Philander’s figures right now - 7-6-1-1! Wow. Incredible. Another maiden over played out by Pujara off Big V - one ball, a beautiful away swinger that beat Pujara’s outside edge. And Kohli takes a single off the first ball of Rabada’s over and gives a change of ends for Pujara but there is no change of fortune - 5 dot balls and he’s now on 0 off 37 balls.
DRINKS, India 17/2 after 13 overs: Kohli gets a couple of runs with a dab past gully off another full ball from Pujara.There was one call for a quick single from the captain and Pujara immediately yelled “NOOOO!” The little things in a Test match, I tell you.
This has been one heck of a tough first hour for India and makes you wonder about Kohli’s call to bat first.
After 12 overs, India 17/2: Two unplayable deliveries from Philander to Pujara – and one almost uncatchable for Qdk, as the ball rears up from good length and heads to knock down QdK in his face, he reverse-cups and falls over. That’s a maiden over. Rabada from the other and Kohli plays the shot of the morning (there have been hardly any played) - almost the same ball that got Vijay out. But Kohli, decisive as he is, transfers the weight completely on to his front foot whereas Vijay was still on the move when he edged. Another maiden from Philander to Pujara at the other end.
By the way: Che Pu’s on 0 off 26 balls! Clearly doesn’t want to risk his wicket with a quick single.
Stats: The openers have been very poor for India this series.
After 9 overs, India 13/2 - RABADA STRIKES! Oh dear, Vijay has played a disappointing shot once again this series. He showed good judgement in leaving today but was also playing the odd loose cover drive and that’s what has got his this time. It’s Rabada’s first over, it’s full and fast, Vijay’s feet going nowhere (that’s an understatement) and the outside edge is gleefully accepted by QdK.
And Virat Kohli has to walk out to bat early once again - has batted in the first 12 hours in all five Indian innings on this tour so far!
After 8 overs, India 13/1: Runs, ahoy! After 5 maiden overs on the trot, Morkel decides to be generous and bowls a wild, wide ball that evades QdK’s outstretched gloves and goes to fine leg for four byes. Vijay’s soft hands prevents an outside carrying to slips in that over and gets a streaky single off the next ball. And Philander once again troubles both batsmen with the indippers.
After 6 overs, India 7/1: PUJARA SURVIVES! What a close, close call this. The ball moving in from Philander is causing all sorts of problems for India. This is another beautiful delivery. The ball lands on the fourth stump, on good length and moves in sharply. Pujara completely misses the line, the ball hits on Pujara’s knee roll. Given not out by Gould, and it look’s umpire’s call will save Pujara - and it does, just about! Matter of millimeters, really.
A poll for you:
After 5 overs, India 7/1: Seven runs in the first over, none in four overs since. Another good over from Morkel to Vijay and despite him showing the willingness to leave anything that us short of good length, trusting the bounce, he has played and missed a couple of wide balls already. Does it again in that over and is lucky not to get the outside edge. Odd from Vijay.
Some analysis of the Rahul dismissal, a clear case of the moving ball causing problems:
After 4 over, India 7/1: And Philander draws first blood! Remember those two balls that we talked about in Big Vern’s first over that troubled Rahul? It’s the same ball again and this time it not just cuts Rahul in half but takes the inside edge on its way to QdK who takes a low catch. Philander strikes early in his 50th Test. Rahul pays the price for playing too late and the bat coming down at an angle.
Pujara walks in and doesn’t get run out first ball. *wink wink*
After 3 overs, India 7/0: A more probing start from Vernon Philander as KL Rahul shakily plays out a maiden over. The one that shaped away was left alone, the one that jagged back in cut Rahul into half, so to speak, on a couple of occasions. Another maiden over from Morkel at the other end as Vijay continues to leave on length, even for the one that goes over the stump, just about. Good old-fashioned opening batsmanship.
India at Wanderers, just to reiterate: Played 4, lost 0, won 1 and drawn 3. UNBEATEN.
After 1 over, India 7/0: An interesting over to start proceedings. Vijay starts like the Vijay we are used to, leaving the first three balls – the second was the proverbial perfume ball from Morkel - and then off the fourth ball pokes at a full ball outside off stump and the edge runs away past Elgar at gully for four. The next ball is again full, Vijay drives past mid off for a couple of runs.
01:30 pm: Morne Morkel with the brand new red ball in his hand. Murali Vijay takes guard. Are we in for a flurry of wickets today? Or will India resist and back their captain’s call to bat first?
01:25 pm: National Anthems being sung. And we are minutes away from Vijay, Rahul taking on a 5-pronged SA pace attack on a green Wanderers pitch. The excitement around the Test doesn’t make it feel like a dead rubber.
Update: Virat Kohli has not named the same XI in 35 matches as captain now!
01:15 pm: Remember, once the Test series is over, the limited over series begin and it’s not just Kohli and Co who will be in action. Mithali Raj’s Team India departed for South Africa earlier and they met the press before leaving for the Rainbow Nation.
The Field’s Zenia D’Cunha was there to send the team off and she writes about what Mithali had to say:
The last time Indian women’s team went to South Africa, they came back as champions in the Quadrangular series involving Ireland and Zimbabwe back in May 2017.
However, they also lost to the same South African unit at the World Cup in July by 115 runs.
Come February, they will be playing Dane van Niekerk and team again, this time as part of the second ICC Women’s ODI championship. This will be their first international match in over six months, as the World Cup runners-up haven’t played any international cricket since the final on July 23.
Captain Mithali Raj chose to look at the positive side of this long break as she addressed the media at the pre-departure in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“Before the World Cup, we were busy with the Qualifiers and the Quadrangular series and the preparation for the World Cup, so it’s been a long season for us. And after the World Cup, it was important for girls to recover, we had few injuries,” she told the media.
01:10 pm: Phew. Now that the shock is dying down, let’s take a look at the XIs in detail. Markram is fit for South Africa. Parthiv retains his place despite his performance behind the wickets at Centurion. Personally, the biggest talking point for me is the return of Ajinkya Rahane. After all the talk about Rohit, after all the talk about intent and form, this is a big call and there’s a lot riding on Rahane.
Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (C), Quinton de Kock (W), Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi
Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Parthiv Patel (W), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
INDIA BAT FIRST
01:00 pm: Wow. It is true after all. NO SPINNER PLAYING THIS TEST MATCH AT ALL! India drop R Ashwin, South Africa drop Keshav Maharaj.
India win the toss and Kohli surprises again, asking South Africa to bowl first with the brand new red ball on a seaming, green, bouncy (expected, at least) Wanderers pitch.
12:55 pm: Much green, such wow:
A look at the pitch...
12:50 pm: First things first, this is not a Centurion pitch. This is not brown. Thick grass covering, there are some cracks already observes Shaun Pollock. The pitch is usually a bit slow on day one and that might tempt captains to bat first he adds. But there is a cloud cover and the there is a thick covering of green grass. Pollock finishes saying: “If you win the toss, get the new ball in your hands.”
Gavaskar: Looking at the grass, I would like to go for 6 batsman – 3 openers, if you lose an early wicket, the opener comes in... if not, he bats at 6, 4 seamers. Day 1 it might have some spongy bounce.
Dead rubber? For Kohli, it’s anything but...
The third Test isn’t a dead rubber, a loss will have huge implications on Kohli’s captaincy
Captaining India has never been a bed of roses and Kohli is quickly finding out why there is a shelf life to this position.
No one, not even Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Sourav Ganguly, were exempt from the pressures of captaincy and neither will the current skipper.
Another loss and who knows what might happen. It could make a rock solid captaincy a little shaky; it could make questioning Kohli’s captaincy fair game and it could make sure his power won’t remain as absolute anymore. It will also make one wonder – how much longer before all this talk starts affecting Kohli’s batting?
Read Ashish Magotra’s piece here...
All eyes on India’s Playing XI
12:35 pm: As Sanjay Manjrekar says, the excitement to any Test under Kohli’s captaincy these days begins 30 minutes before the match - when the toss happens and he reveals what the playing XI is.
The Wanderers test awaits India
12:30 pm: After all the hype about the World No 1 and World No 2 sides taking on each other, the series has been wrapped up by No 2 South Africa, even before a ball is bowled at the Wanderers - a venue where India’s unbeaten record (in 4 Tests) was meant to come in handy in the case of a decider. As it stands though, it’s the proverbial pride at stake for a wounded Virat Kohli and his team, who will want to avoid a 3-0 defeat. Faf du Plessis, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to reverse the scoreline from their visit to India a couple of years back.
What does this all mean for us? Another absorbing Test match, of course, and unlike most dead rubbers there is plenty at stake for both teams.