Hardik Pandya’s innings to keep India alive in the Test might have made the pitch looked easier for a while, but his bowling to take wickets later in the evening would have warned any batsman feeling too relaxed. However, there has been indication even from South Africa’s first innings that there are runs to be had when the ball gets soft and doesn’t jag around as much.
While Kagiso Rabada said the pitch was difficult, India’s Cheteshwar Pujara said the visitors could chase around 350 in the final innings. South Africa ended the second day’s play 142 runs ahead, with eight second-innings wickets in hand.
“To be honest, we don’t want to chase too many runs but at the same time, the way the wicket is behaving, I think, anywhere around 350 will be chaseable,” Pujara said. “In the first innings, the top order obviously didn’t click but in the second innings I think we will put up a better show and if we continue to bat well, we can definitely get more than 350.”
Rabada said no total was going to be easy from hereon. “I think it’s a wicket where you really have to graft,” Rabada said. “You can’t just come in and just play shots everywhere. It’s almost like there’s a ball that will have your name on it. I think you need a little bit of luck. As you’ve seen, Hardik Pandya got dropped, but he did play well. So I think it’s a wicket where you need a little bit of luck. You need to really grind.”
Pujara felt similarly about the pitch. “It might deteriorate a bit but, at the same time, I think there is something in it for the fast bowlers and that is what we will try and do tomorrow,” he said. “We will try and exploit some areas where we know that there will be some seam movement for the fast bowlers. Yes, it is getting better to bat on but there is still something in it for the fast bowlers.”
What will help India is the absence of Dale Steyn in the rest of the Test, reducing the formidable four-man attack to three. “Luckily, this time we went with four seamers,” Rabada said. “So there’s three seamers now that have to do the work.”
That South Africa are now having to “find a way” to win a Test that looked sealed is down to Pandya’s innings, and Pujara praised him handsomely. “He batted really well, showed a lot of character,” Pujara said. “He hasn’t played many Test matches away from home but the kind of innings he played, we expected it from him if he played in the playing XI. I think if someone who is very promising, he is batting well, bowling well, it makes a lot of difference to the team because when you have a very good allrounder, it balances your team combination. I hope he continues with this.”