India vs South Africa 1st Test: Ashwin leads India fight after Elgar, de Kock epics

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South Africa finished Day 3 of the ongoing 1st Test in an assured position of 385/8, though still trailing India’s first innings total of 502/7 declared by 117 runs. While the tourists started the day in a precarious position on 39/3, the fact that they ended the day while keeping the Indians in the field all day was largely due to the twin centurions Dean Elgar (160) and Quinton de Kock (111). Tailenders Senuran Muthusamy (12) and Keshav Maharaj (3) were batting at the crease for South Africa when Stumps were called.

With just 5 wickets in the whole day, the Indian bowlers toiled hard but were often at the receiving end of some defensive captaincy tactics and fielders not being alert to a few half-chances being created.

One could not stop but feel for wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock who was visibly disappointed when he was bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin to gift him his 4th wicket of the game, with just over 7 overs remaining till Stumps. Ashwin later bowled Vernon Philander (0) to pick up his 27th 5-wicket haul in Tests.

Earlier, Dean Elgar became the first South African to score a Test hundred in India since 2010 (Hashim Amla) as the opener led visitors’ valiant fightback on day three of the series-opener, here on Friday.

After resuming the day at 39 for three, South Africa took tea at 292 for five to frustrate the Indian bowlers, who could manage only two wickets in 67 overs bowled today.

Elgar and Faf du Plessis (55) shared 115 runs for the fifth wicket before Quinton de Kock joined the centurion in the middle.

Du Plessis’ was the only wicket to fall in the extended afternoon session when Ashwin had the South African captain caught at leg gully against the run of play.

The visitors made 153 runs in the session lasting 37 overs but still trail India by 210 runs. Elgar showed exemplary skills while batting in testing sub-continental conditions to score his 12th Test hundred.

Indian spinners posed the biggest threat going into day three and he tackled them by mixing caution with aggression. He took the aerial route at the slightest opportunity to release pressure, smashing four sixes to go with 18 boundaries. Elgar got to the three figures in style, dispatching Ashwin for a spectacular six over the cow corner.

After du Plessis’ dismissal in the 58th over, de Kock joined Elgar in taking the attack to the spinners.

The wicketkeeper-batsman batted in limited-overs mode, collecting 16 fours and 2 sixes. Running out of options, India also tried part-time spinners Hanuma Vihari and Rohit Sharma but to little effect.

Earlier, Elgar and du Plessis resisted the Indian attack with an unbeaten 90-run partnership which took South Africa to 153 for four at lunch.

Considering what transpired in the final session on Thursday, South Africa were expected to surrender rather quickly but Elgar and Du Plessis played with positive intent against the Indian spinners.

While Ashwin and Jadeja got more purchase out of the surface than the South Africa spinners, the pitch did not appear to have demons in it. The odd ball, though, did jump off the wicket.

Ashwin, who looked menacing in the final session on Thursday, could not get a wicket in the morning. Both Elgar and Du Plessis were not afraid to use their feet against Ashwin, playing some lofted shots.

Elgar made his intentions clear early on by going for the loft over mid-on even though it was a mishit for four. He grew in confidence from there on and was successful in executing the aerial hits and shots through the ground.

Elgar, who like all South African batsmen had a forgettable tour of India four years ago, brought his 14th Test fifty with a single in the 40th over. A little later, the southpaw smashed Jadeja for two sixes and a four in the same over.

The luck was also on his side when he was on 74 as Saha dropped a sharp catch off Jadeja. But in the end, Jadeja got his reward as Elgar top-edged a sweep into a running Cheteshwar Pujara’s hands, just as he looked set to last the whole day. With the wicket, Jadeja also completed 200 scalps in Tests and the 10th Indian to the feat.

At the other end, Du Plessis too looked comfortable ever since he charged down the ground to Ashwin for the first six of his innings.

Pacer Ishant Sharma picked up the sole wicket to fall in the session when he got one to jag back in sharply and trap Temba Bavuma (18) in front of the stumps.

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