What a day for Indian fans! Indian batsmen lead by Virat Kohli showed admirable determination and a superb application on a Wanderers pitch that bore a settled look yet offering appreciable lateral movement.
The young Indian brigade lead by captain cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni drove the demons out of their minds and displayed great skill and application in keeping the dreaded South African attack at bay. At stumps India are in a good position at 255 for the loss of 5 wickets with both Dhoni and Rahane holding forte.
Indians have been written-off even before they landed in South Africa and they gladly obliged their tormentors by going down 0-2 rather meekly in ODI series, with the third of the series having been washed out. Cricket Pundits predicted that Indians are good in their backyard alone and cannot even hold a cricket bat outside sub-continent.
Perhaps the absence of expectations, helped them concentrate better. They exceeded all expectations and if they can put up another 100 runs for the last 5 wickets, which seems very likely, they will have batted themselves into a position of strength. The 8-0 debacle in England & Australia could be forgotten and forgiven, if Dhoni’s men could even draw the current series against the formidable pace battery of Dale Steyn & Co.
Wanderers pitch is the quickest in South Africa and the pace twins, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel can swing the ball at 140 kmph and make the batsmen face chin music from just short of length. Steyn began in his usual fiery style and soon consumed Shikhar Dhawan who showed poor conviction by attempting a drag pull to a should-high delivery, outside the off-stump. It was his inability to sway out of the line of the ball that cost him his wicket. Murali Vijay was snared by Morne Morkel, who kept relentless pressure on Indians with an impeccable line.However, the openers played out the first 45 minutes of play and shielded the middle order from the opening burst of Steyn.
Kohli and Pujara then set up a marvelous partnership, which threatened to take the game away from Proteas. Kohli, cut, pulled and drove with consummate ease while Pujara slugged it out. Graeme Smith tried all his bowlers but no one could separate the pair. Only a moment of discretion ended the brilliant partnership as Kohli called Pujara for a run and turned back to sell a dummy. Pujara returned disappointed but his contribution meant a lot to India as he bottled up his end as Virat Kohli kept pounding the South African bowlers with a strike rate in excess of 90.0
Kohli hit a chanceless 119 with 18 fours and looked at ease, ever since he first arrived at the crease. He fell to an innocuous delivery from Jack Kallis as he drove a wide half-volley into the waiting hands of JP Duminy. It was a clear lapse in concentration and Kohli was crestfallen, taking a while to begin his trudge back to pavilion. His established yet another fruitful partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, who looked solid if not as dominating and is unbeaten on 43. Rohit Sharma perished to a loose shot earlier, trying to drive on the up, while not moving his feet decisively to the pitch of the delivery.
Dhoni and Rahane are the last recognized pair for India, though, Ravichandran Ashwin is no mug with the bat and can play the waiting game as good as a frontline batsman. He also times the ball beautifully. If India can close-in on 350 mark, they have a real chance of giving South Africa a run for their money.