Shardul Thakur earned his maiden five-wicket haul and the adulation of millions of his countrymen as he filled the breach superbly for India and reduced South Africa to 191/7 at tea on the second day of the second Test at the Wanderers on Tuesday.
With fast bowler Mohammed Siraj only able to bowl six overs on Tuesday due to the hamstring strain he picked up on the first evening, India’s attack were under pressure as they set about defending their moderate first innings score of 202.
But Thakur rocked the Proteas shortly before lunch with a spell of 3/0 in 16 balls and then took another couple of key wickets in the second session to leave the home side still 11 runs behind and with no specialist batsmen left.
The gritty Temba Bavuma and Kyle Verreynne lifted South Africa’s hopes after lunch as they added 60 for the fifth wicket. But in Thakur’s second over back, he jagged a delivery back into Verryenne, whose feet never moved an inch, trapping him lbw for a useful 21.
Bavuma went to his 17th Test half-century, coming off just 59 balls it was another fabulous rearguard innings by the vice-captain, but the next ball he tried to glance a short lifter from Thakur and was brilliantly caught by diving wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant. Thakur had brilliant figures of 5/43 in 13.1 overs at tea.
Kagiso Rabada then fell for a duck, driving loosely from the crease at Mohammed Shami and looping a catch to mid-on.
Marco Jansen, so impressive in taking four wickets with the ball on the first day, now has to earn his bread as a batsman, the new No 7 going into the break on 2*, while Keshav Maharaj has collected a couple of fine boundaries in his 11*.
With Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen, who notched his maiden Test half-century, adding 74 for the second wicket in two-and-a-half hours, India were under the pump a bit as the opening spells of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were seen off, albeit with some good fortune.
But Thakur, India’s fourth seamer, came into the attack in the 19th over of the day and his burst saw the Proteas slump from a comfortable 88/1 to 102/4 at lunch.
Elgar was the first to go, his 170-minute, 120-ball vigil for 28 runs helping to give South Africa a solid start to the second day. But Thakur then nipped a delivery across the prodding left-hander and had him caught behind.
Petersen reached 50 for the first time in his Test career shortly afterwards, in his sixth innings, and he showed an admirable mix of determination and positivity on Tuesday as he went to 62 with nine fours. But having survived such high-quality fast bowling, and plenty of movement off the pitch, from Shami and Bumrah, perhaps he relaxed a bit against the lesser pace of Thakur.
But the 30-year-old all-rounder was still nipping the ball around and Petersen’s somewhat loose drive, without getting far enough forward, edged the ball to second slip.
Rassie van der Dussen’s dismissal for 1, with what became the last delivery before lunch, was controversial. He clearly inside-edged a delivery that jagged back into him, with extra bounce, into his hip, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant then claiming the catch diving forward.
Umpire Marais Erasmus gave Van der Dussen out, but replays showed the ball bounced before Pant’s gloves. It was the second time on Tuesday morning that replays showed Pant claiming a catch on the bounce.