Cape Town, Jan 11 (IANS) A brilliant bowling performance by Kagiso Rabada (4/73) and Marco Jansen (3/55) put South Africa on top against India on a fast-moving Day 1 of the third and final Test of the three-match series, despite Virat Kohli's gritty knock, here on Tuesday.
Aiden Markram (8 not out) and Keshav Maharaj (6 not out) were at the crease when stumps were called as South Africa finished an engrossing opening day at 17/1 in their first innings, trailing India by 206 runs at Newlands.
The hosts lost the only wicket of their skipper, Dean Elgar, before the close of play, which will definitely give India a glimmer of hope after they were bowled out for 223 in their first innings.
Skipper Kohli's masterclass was the batting highlight of the day and if not for his efforts, the visitors could have landed in a much deeper hole.
Earlier in the day, India won the toss and opted to bat first as openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal gave the visitors a decent start. South Africa bowled with tight lines and lengths but Rahul and Mayank Agarwal did well to negotiate it and hit occasional boundaries to keep the scoreboard ticking.
However, Proteas pacers Rabada and Duanne Olivier then bowled three maiden overs in a row and tested the patience of the Indian openers. The disciplined bowling and consistent pressure resulted in Rahul's (12) downfall, who played a tentative shot on a ball that was just outside off. He was in two minds whether to leave it or play it and eventually ended up nicking it behind to the keeper off Olivier.
In the very next over, Mayank Agarwal (15) also got out and India were in trouble. Rabada pitched the ball a tad fuller just outside off and it took Agarwal's outside edge. With two quick wickets, it seemed like India had wasted a watchful start as captain Virat Kohli joined Cheteshwar Pujara in the middle.
Thereafter, Both Kohli and Pujara looked solid in their approach, leaving well and hitting regular boundaries as well. Pujara showed great intent and made full use of the scoring opportunities on offer whereas Kohli looked determined at the crease and played a couple of lovely drives. They took India to 75/2 at lunch.
In the second session, both Pujara and Kohli looked to extend their vital partnership. Pujara continued his approach to looking for runs and not just block and hit a few more boundaries to move into his 40s. However, an eventful over by Jansen dismissed him and gave South Africa, the much-needed breakthrough to break the gritty 3rd wicket stand.
Jansen started the over with a freebie on the pads for Pujara to pick up the boundary but the pacer bounced back quickly and almost trapped the batsman leg before wicket in the next ball with a delivery that came back in. The experienced batter survived that but the next ball came in with the angle and straightened to take the outside edge and Pujara's (43) knock came to an end.
Ajinkya Rahane, who came to bat next, got off the mark with a cheeky boundary off Jansen. On the other hand, Kohli looked in solid touch and helped India cross the 100-run mark in the 39th over by picking a double off Rabada. The Indian skipper also hit the first maximum of the ongoing third Test and his signature cover drive in different overs bowled by Rabada and Jansen respectively to keep the scoreboard ticking.
It was Rabada, who brought the Proteas team back in the game by dismissing Rahane (9). The pacer bowled a good length and Rahane edged behind, with the umpire declaring him out. However, the batter wasn't sure and thought that the ball might have hit the pad on the way to the keeper but the replays confirm that he had indeed edged it.
Rishabh Pant then joined his skipper out in the middle and started his innings on a confident note by hitting two boundaries, both against Rabada. On the other hand, a determined Kohli also showed tremendous application and did not refrain from playing the drives on the off-side.
The pair of Pant and Kohli mixed caution with aggression and guided India safely through to the Tea break, battling hard for a little over 12 overs. But as soon as play resumed after Tea, Pant played an unnecessary stroke to get out.
From there on, it was all about Kohli as the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Shardul Thakur failed to spend time at the wicket and accompany their skipper as South Africa kept chipping away. Kohli did begin to open up and fetch a few boundaries but with the tail exposed, he moved around the crease at one point against Rabada and looked to dab him down the third man region, only to edge behind and end his fighting knock of 79 runs.
South Africa then quickly managed to wrap India's tail as the visitors were bowled out for 223 in their first innings. The hosts could have had a near-perfect day but they lost the vital wicket of their skipper Elgar. Bumrah, who managed to dismiss the South African skipper twice in the first Test, got one to go across the left-hander and take his outside edge again.
Brief scores: India 223 all out in 77.3 overs (Virat Kohli 79, Cheteshwar Pujara 43, Kagiso Rabada 4-73) vs South Africa 17/1 in 8 overs (Aiden Markram 8 not out, Keshav Maharaj 6 not out; Jasprit Bumrah 1-0).