CENTURION, South Africa _ Just as his opposite number did, India captain Virat Kohli led his team’s fightback with an unbeaten 39 as the tourists were 80-2 at tea on Day 2 of the second test in South Africa on Sunday.
Kohli strode in with India under pressure at 28-2 after losing two wickets in two balls. By tea, he had hit six fours and played the lead role in an unbroken partnership of 52 with Murali Vijay, who was 31 not out.
India trailed by 255 runs with eight wickets left after South Africa’s 335 all out in its first innings.
India’s reply to that mediocre South African score on a good batting pitch at Centurion stuttered early when KL Rahul was out caught and bowled by Morne Morkel for 10, and Cheteshwar Pujara run out first ball he faced by a direct hit at the non-striker’s end from debutant Lungi Ngidi.
Kohli, without a score in the series so far, showed intent early on with successive fours off Morkel and his 39 came off 51 balls at a brisk strike rate.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis completed a precious half-century in the morning session to take South Africa past 300. Du Plessis’ 63 dragged his team to 335 all out at SuperSport Park after useful lower-order partnerships of 31 with Keshav Maharaj (18) and 42 with Kagiso Rabada (11) on the second day.
India was hoping for a quicker end to South Africa’s first innings after three swift wickets at the end of the first day had the home team wobbling on 269-6 at stumps.
Du Plessis held up India, although the tourists will still be positive after restricting the South Africans to less than 350 on a seemingly good batting pitch. India removed South Africa’s last seven batsmen for just 89 runs.
Offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin took 4-113 and wrapped up the South African innings when Morkel was caught at long off.
Ishant Sharma justified his selection ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar by taking 3-46, which included the wicket of du Plessis. Sharma clean bowled the home captain to make sure South Africa was kept in check.
The end may have come quicker, with Rabada dropped off successive Ashwin deliveries when South Africa was 289-7.
Top-ranked India trails 1-0 in the three-match series, making the Centurion test a must-win game to have a chance at a first series win in South Africa.