India’s attack, led by the accurate and constantly probing Mohammed Shami, brought the Proteas batting to their knees on the third day of the first Test at Centurion on Tuesday, with the tourists finishing the day with a 146-run lead and nine wickets in hand.
After the entire second day was washed away, the third morning was a great success for South Africa as they took India’s last seven wickets for just 55 runs, dismissing them for 327. Lungi Ngidi once again led the way with superb figures of 6/71 in 24 overs, while Kagiso Rabada backed him up on Tuesday with 3/72 in 26 overs.
The Proteas had reached 21/1 in reply at lunch, losing captain Dean Elgar for just a single, caught behind the wicket off Jasprit Bumrah, who produced a fine delivery angled across the left-hander.
By that stage it was clear that this SuperSport Park pitch is not a 272/3 wicket, which is what India scored on the first day, thanks to a poor bowling effort by the Proteas.
And India showed exactly what South Africa did wrong on that opening day as they attacked off-stump with precision on Tuesday and reduced the Proteas to 32/4 half-an-hour after lunch. Shami did the bulk of the damage as he bowled both Keegan Petersen (15) and Aiden Markram (13).
This carnage happened despite Bumrah, India’s spearhead, having to pull out of the attack in his sixth over after rolling his ankle in his follow-through.
Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock then prevented a total collapse as they added 72 for the fifth wicket. De Kock had been at the crease for 63 balls when a lame horizontal-bat attempt to steer Shardul Thakur to third man saw him play the ball on to his own stumps.
Bavuma stayed at the crease for three hours in compiling a disciplined, skilful 52, before Shami returned to have him caught behind with another beautiful delivery that drew the batsman forward just outside off-stump, and then extra bounce and some straightening off the seam found the edge.
The late efforts of debutant Marco Jansen (19), Rabada (25) and Keshav Maharaj (12) ensured that India had to be satisfied with a first-innings lead of 130 as South Africa were bowled out for 197.
Considering the absence of Bumrah from the attack – he did return at the end to claim the last wicket and finish with 2/16 in 7.2 overs – India will obviously be delighted. Shami stepped up brilliantly to take 5/44 in 16 overs and was well-supported by Thakur 2/51.
Jansen picked up the wicket of Mayank Agarwal (4), caught behind, in the last over of the day, but with the disadvantage of having to bat last, South Africa obviously need to strike quickly and often on the fourth morning. And the discipline of their top-order batsmen will then have to be much better.