Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

In­dia need mir­a­cle to keep series alive

UP­HILL TASK Set a tar­get of 287 af­ter solid bat­ting from De Vil­liers and Du Plessis, In­dia lose openers and Kohli on Day 4

- SOMSHUVRA LAHA

CEN­TU­RION: In­dia’s am­bi­tion of win­ning a series in South Africa suf­fered a set­back as the vis­i­tors were left tot­ter­ing at 35/3 on a two-paced pitch that was more In­dian than Highveld in na­ture.

The pen­chant for need­less shots when balls should have been left alone hurt as Mu­rali Vi­jay and KL Rahul fell to care­less shots be­fore the law of av­er­ages caught up with Vi­rat Kohli, the only cen­tu­rion in this series so far.

At the crease are Chetesh­war Pu­jara and Parthiv Pa­tel — com­ing ahead of Ro­hit Sharma — who might be kept awake in the night by the pain caused from a sting­ing Lungi Ngidi bouncer at his ribcage. With Kohli dis­missed, chas­ing 286 might be a dif­fi­cult ask but In­dia need to find the in­spi­ra­tion to keep go­ing.

The tar­get could have been less though. Mo­hammed Shami fi­nally found his own in the morn­ing ses­sion and re­moved the dan­ger­ous AB de Vil­liers be­fore dis­miss­ing Dean El­gar and Quin­ton de Kock. But then Kohli, ad­ding to a long list of puz­zling de­ci­sions in this series, sud­denly pulled him out of the at­tack.

Faf du Plessis dis­played the tenac­ity be­fit­ting a cap­tain by knuck­ling down­ing to pro­duce a slow but de­fi­ant 48. Runs were hard to come by as South Africa added 83 and 57 runs in the first two ses­sions but the 46-run part­ner­ship be­tween du Plessis and Ver­non Phi­lan­der gave them the fil­lip needed to reach 258.

Overnight rain had spiced up the pitch a bit but de Vil­liers bat­ted clev­erly with Dean El­gar in a 141-run stand for the third wicket.

Du Plessis opened his ac­count with a bound­ary from the toe-end of his bat, try­ing to sweep Ravichan­dran Ash­win but quickly changed his ap­proach af­ter los­ing El­gar and de Kock in the space of three overs.

CARE­LESS AP­PROACH

Since then, it was a long and res­o­lute blockathon from du Plessis till he hit two bound­aries to take South Africa’s lead past 250. His re­silience should have been the cue for In­dia to see out the rest of the day with the bat. In­stead, Vi­jay dragged Rabada’s de­liv­ery on to his stumps play­ing from the crease. Rahul then com­pounded In­dia’s trou­ble by play­ing away from his body and al­most slic­ing Ngidi to Ke­shav Ma­haraj at back­ward point.

That In­dia didn’t learn their les­sons from New­lands was ev­i­dent when they didn’t send a night­watch­man ahead of Kohli. Walk­ing across the stumps to meet the ball’s line helped Kohli flour­ish in the first in­nings but this time Ngidi an­gled the ball into him with­out much bounce to trap him leg-be­fore. The send-off given to Kohli showed how much South Africa value his scalp.

For In­dia, now is the time they prove they are not al­ways re­ly­ing on Kohli to bail them out. If they can’t, it might seem they are re­gress­ing to the age when Sachin Ten­dulkar used to be In­dia’s one-man army. With tours of Eng­land and Aus­tralia com­ing up, it can’t be good news.

 ?? AFP ?? South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi ac­counted for In­dia opener KL Rahul and skip­per Vi­rat Kohli on Tues­day.
AFP South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi ac­counted for In­dia opener KL Rahul and skip­per Vi­rat Kohli on Tues­day.
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