After being dominated for the first two days of the first test in Visakhapatnam by India, South Africa enjoyed a much better third day, two batsmen making centuries to ensure that they did not have to follow-on, something that had appeared almost inevitable on Thursday evening. At the same time they gave hope that this series may yet be fiercely contested, something which had appeared in doubt when their bowlers had struggled to make inroads into the Indian batting line-up.
Resuming on 39 -3 in reply to India’s massive first innings score of 502 -7 declared, they had an early setback when Temba Bavuma was lbw to Ishant Sharma for 18.
However, Dean Elgar and his captain Faf du Plessis combined in a stand of 115 for the fifth wicket and, when du Plessis, who had made 55, including one six, was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara off the bowling of Ravichandran Ashwin, continued the fightback with Quinto de Kock. Elgar reached his 12th test century, as the pair looked to avoid the follow-on, the immediate target for the South African batsmen.
That hurdle was safely negotiated, and the pair added 164 for the sixth wicket until Elgar finally fell to the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja, caught by Pujara, for 160. He had struck 4 sixes and 18 fours, and faced 287 balls. De Kock then combined with Senuran Muthusamy, and reached his own century, his fifth in test cricket, before he was the next man to fall, bowled by Ashwin for 111, having hit 2 sixes and 16 fours.
And then, as the day’s play began to draw to a close, Ashwin struck yet again, bowling fast bowler Vernon Philander for a duck. Shortly afterwards, the umpires removed the bails as the day finished with South Africa 385 – 8, with Muthusamy unbeaten on 12, and Keshav Maharaj 3 not out. That meant that the visitors still trailed the hosts by 117 runs, with 2 first innings’ wickets remaining.
It was a long day in the field for the Indian bowlers, with the spinners doing most of the work. Ashwin was the most successful in terms of wickets, taking 5 for 128, whilst Jadeja finished the day with 2 for 116.
South Africa will look to prolong their innings for as long as possible on Saturday, with their first objective being to get the deficit they will face on first innings down to less than a hundred runs.