Mohammed Shami’s five-for negates India collapse to Lungi Ngidi on full day of cricket
Stumps India 327 (Rahul 123, Agarwal 60, Ngidi 6-71, Rabada 3-72) and 16 for 1 (Rahul 5*, Thakur 4*) lead South Africa 197 (Bavuma 52, de Kock 34, Shami 5-44, Bumrah 2-16) by 146 runs
India now held all the keys to dominance in the Test, provided no further weather interruptions in the remaining two days. Things looked similar at the end of day one, but the washed-out second day left them needing an innings win or a transformed pitch if they were to force a result. The Centurion pitch, which usually gets quicker after the first day, responded with both pace and uneven bounce for the new ball.
What resulted was the second-quickest collapse in Test cricket (where fall-of-wicket information is available) in terms of number of balls, when the first four wickets of a team had batted 90 overs or more. India’s first new ball looked just as lethal with four wickets falling in the first 13 overs before the pitch settled down enough for South Africa to recover from 32 for 4 to end up with 197.
As early as the first over, Bumrah produced an unplayable delivery to send back captain Dean Elgar: a full ball that shaped in and then nipped away just enough after pitching to take the edge. In the half hour that India had before lunch, they looked to swing the ball, but didn’t find much. They came back a mean machine: repeatedly bowling the fullest length that can’t be driven, mixing in the odd lifter into the ribs.
Keegan Petersen responded with an error immediately as soon as India changed the lengths. Still looking for the drive, he was well away from the pitch of the ball, which seamed back to take the inside edge and knock over his stumps. When Aiden Markram had his off stump pegged back by one that held its line, it wasn’t the first unplayable ball he was facing. This was an interrogation of the highest order.
After Bumrah twisted his ankle and walked off in the 11th over, Mohammed Siraj cleverly checked Rassie van der Dussen out on the drive with two sucker balls. One edge fell short of second slip, and the second went straight to gully, a dismissal that should leave the batter disappointed.
It was hard work post tea too with the ball not doing much. This is when Shami put in a spell of 4-0-19-2 to take out both Bavuma and No. 7 Wiaan Mulder. They both looked comfortable at the wicket, Bavuma even reached his half-century, but they both made errors against the impeccable accuracy of Shami. Mulder played a loose drive to a half-volley, and Bavuma defended a wide one outside the line of his head.
Rabada and debutant Marco Jansen now added 37 for the eighth wicket, managing to make it look easy, but again Thakur produced the breakthrough just before Shami and Bumrah came back on. He had Jansen playing inside the line of what looked like a straight ball. Shami had Rabada for his five-for, his 200th wicket. He is the only Indian among the 11 with 200 or more with a strike-rate of under 50. Bumrah finished things off with the wicket of Keshav Maharaj, caught at fly slip.
In the half hour possible before stumps, Jansen managed to get the wicket of Mayank Agarwal, with India ending the day effectively at 146 for 1. At the end of day three on such a pitch, you back yourself to win, but there is some forecast for rain on day five, which will make for an interesting watch on India’s declaration should they get themselves into a position to do so.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo