OCTOBER 4, 2019
Brief Scorecard: At Stumps – South Africa 385 for 8 (Elgar 160, de Kock 111, du Plessis 55, Ashwin 5-128) trail India 502 for 7 dec. (Agarwal, 215, Rohit 176, Maharaj 3-189) by 117 runs
VISAKHAPATNAM – South Africa exorcised some of the demons from their last tour of India on a day of glorious batting in which two of their players scored hundreds. So tough is it to play in India that despite doing much better than expected, South Africa were looking at the prospects of having to bat out three-and-a-half sessions to save the Test, which is roughly what they had batted in this innings.
Thanks to R Ashwin’s 27th five-for, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock will have to put off full-fledged celebrations of their incredible hundreds by two days. India still led by 117 runs with two South African wickets standing. Should the last two wickets fall early, India have enough cushion to be able to time their declaration in the third innings.
Yet the magnitude of South Africa’s achievement cannot be understated. They were 15 short of becoming the first visiting team since 2013 to score 400 when not batting first in India. That year was the start of India’s dominant run at home since when they have lost just one home Test and only weather has been able to deny them a win at home when they have won the toss.
Bringing the biggest fight to the Indian juggernaut were Elgar of the “this is not Jo’burg” fame from the last tour and de Kock, who was not considered good enough by the South Africa selectors the last time around. The originator of that Jo’burg jibe, Ashwin, had to work much harder for his wickets here, but he showed he had just enough in his repertoire to come out with his head held high on a tough day.
Elgar’s 160 was 18 short of the highest score by a visiting batsman in India’s latest dominant run at home, de Kock’s 111 was a wonderful display of natural talent backed by a clear head. It was hard work for India’s spinners on a pitch that might not have been as flat as Rajkot against England or Delhi against Sri Lanka but didn’t quite break up like Indian pitches do of late. That shouldn’t take credit away from South Africa who were ruthless against any marginal error in length, especially on the fuller side.
For long periods of the innings, South Africa’s was the second-fastest innings of 80 overs or longer by an away team in India in this dominant post 2013 era. Elgar, de Kock and Faf du Plessis, who nearly doubled his last series tally of 60 runs, hit 42 fours and seven sixes between them. That’s 64.4% of their runs in boundaries.