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South Africa stare into the abyss as India’s spinners make merry on a crumbling pitch

Jadeja, Ashwin and Mishra will be relishing the prospect of bowling to South Africa on Day 3.
Jadeja, Ashwin and Mishra will be relishing the prospect of bowling to South Africa on Day 3.
Jadeja, Ashwin and Mishra will be relishing the prospect of bowling to South Africa on Day 3.

Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar began proceedings for South Africa at the start of Day 2. At stumps, the same two batsmen were at the crease. Only they were batting in a different innings.

The Indian spinners created history on a vicious surface in Nagpur, bowling out South Africa for 79, a record-lowest total against the sub-continental giants in Tests. The Nagpur pitch evoked diabolical reactions from cricket experts all over the world, even as India looked all set to end the Proteas’ 9-year unbeaten away record in the traditional format of the sport.

Resuming on 11/2, the day began horrifically for South Africa after Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja made full use of the conditions and reduced them to 12/5 in no time. Dean Elgar fell to Ashwin on the very first over of the day. Almost immediately, Hashim Amla walked off the field in despair after top-edging a loopy delivery from the tall off-spinner. When AB De Villiers lobbed a simple return catch to Jadeja, the scorecard was a sorry picture.

JP Duminy walked into bat with a horde of close-in fielders waiting in anticipation. Things could have been a lot worse had Virat Kohli held on to a straight-forward chance at slip. However, the Indian captain’s poor catching technique let the left-hander off the hook. Duminy rubbed salt into the wounds by dispatching Jadeja for a couple of sixes.

On the other end, Faf Du Plessis’ torturous tour continued as he was cleaned up by Jadeja. Considering the situation, his shot seemed particularly ambitious. Dane Vilas followed him into the dressing room after struggling to negotiate the late-turn of the left-arm spinner.

Even though Simon Harmer began positively, he was outfoxed by a carrom ball from Ashwin. Finally, Kohli introduced Amit Mishra into the attack. The leggie responded by snaring Duminy with a ball that hurried back sharply on to his pads. Despite being a contentious call, the umpire ruled in favour of the bowler. Ashwin completed the formalities by picking up yet another five-wicket haul.

The Indian second innings began promisingly as Cheteshwar Pujara unleashed a flurry of boundaries to make amends for Murali Vijay’s early dismissal. But, he was castled by Duminy after getting his team off to a flying start. Later, Kohli and Dhawan compiled a useful partnership and began to bat the Proteas out of the contest.

But, Imran Tahir, often criticized for not performing to his potential, sliced open the middle-order with a rousing spell of wrist-spin. Why he was held back by Hashim Amla will remain a mystery, as Tahir proved his worth by picking up a five-wicket haul, restricting the hosts to 173.

South Africa, in their chase of an improbable target of 310, made the worst possible start, lost Stiaan Van Zyl and night watch-man Tahir.

It was a surreal day of Test cricket, which saw the fall of 20 wickets. The question remains: Will the South Africans come to the wicket and try to negate the spin or will they get caught troubled midway?

Picking up the pieces will be Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar, and both will feel an eerie sense of déjà vu when they walk out to the middle in the morning of Day 3, faced with the daunting challenge of batting out of their skins to prevent India from sealing the series 2-0.

India vs South Africa, 3rd Test, Day 2 scores:

First innings
South Africa: 79 all out (overnight 11/2)
Second innings:
India: 173 all out
South Africa: 32/2

South Africa need 278 runs to win with 8 wickets in hand.

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