India’s pace bowlers exerted their dominance on the third day of the first Test against South Africa at Centurion on Tuesday, delivering a succession of marvellous deliveries that unsettled the Proteas batsmen and saw them limp to 109/5 at tea.
South Africa’s bowlers had earlier enjoyed an excellent morning as Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada caused a thrilling collapse that saw India, resuming on 273/3, lose their last seven wickets for just 55 runs to be all out for 327.
It was a much-improved bowling effort than on the first day, and the SuperSport Park pitch responded with consistent assistance for the pacemen.
South Africa reached 21/1 at lunch, losing captain Dean Elgar in the first over as he was caught behind off a Jasprit Bumrah delivery that was angled beautifully across the left-hander.
More wickets always seemed to be In the mail after the break and India duly delivered as Mohammad Shami bowled both Keegan Petersen (15) and Aiden Markram (13). Mohammed Siraj then chipped in by having Rassie van der Dussen caught in the slips for 3 as South Africa slumped to 32/4.
India suffered a blow when Bumrah, their fearsome spearhead, left the field with a rolled ankle after landing awkwardly in his follow-through after bowling the fifth ball of his sixth over. His absence meant India had to use off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and seamer Shardul Thakur for half-a-dozen overs each.
Ashwin went for 23 runs and Thakur conceded 27 as Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock added 72 for the fifth wicket.
De Kock was well-set on 34 when he was possibly lulled into a false sense of security and rather lamely chopped the medium-pace of Thakur into his own stumps.
Bavuma, so used to shoring up the innings in a crisis, made it to tea on 31 not out. Wiaan Mulder is on 4 and South Africa’s lower-order is going to have to huff and puff their way to the close, still trailing by 218 runs.
India had resumed after the washed out second day with two set batsmen in Lokesh Rahul (122) and Ajinkya Rahane (40), and it was Rabada who began the drama with his first short ball of the day, having Rahul caught behind for 123 as he flapped at the hook shot and gloved it to wicketkeeper De Kock.
It was the fourth over of the day and 278/4 quickly became 308/9 as Ngidi, who took all three wickets to fall on the first day, added the scalps of Rahane, caught behind for 48, Rishabh Pant, caught at bat/pad for 8, and Shami (8), who also edged to De Kock.
Rabada dismissed dangerous lower-order batsmen Ashwin (4) and Thakur (4) to ensure there would be no meaningful wagging of the tail.
Ngidi then rested with outstanding figures of 6/71 in 24 overs, the second time he has taken six wickets in an innings against India on his home ground, while Rabada finished with 3/72 in 26 overs.
Bumrah (14) cleared his arms at the end of the innings as he added 19 for the last wicket with Siraj (4*), but Marco Jansen removed him for his maiden Test wicket, Mulder taking a smart catch at third slip.
Left-armer Jansen had to do plenty of leg-work though for his first wicket, bowling 18.3 overs and conceding 69 runs.