Kohli, Vijay build India’s lead in tough conditions


India 187 and 100 for 4 (Kohli 27*) lead South Africa 194 by 93 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

M Vijay and Virat Kohli batted exceptionally to make sure India lost only three wickets in yet another extremely tough first session of a day. Vijay wore five blows on his body, Virat Kohli was hit on the glove by one that reared from a length, physio Patrick Farhart made regular visits, the umpires kept looking at the surface, but India went about their task gamely and consolidated their chances with 51 for 3 in the session. They now led by 93, and one of the wickets they had lost was Parthiv Patel, who had opened on the second evening and scored a quick 16, massive in the context of this game. It would have been much better for India had Kagiso Rabada not taken out Vijay with a 143kph yorker with what turned out to be the last ball of the session.

South Africa ended the session as they started it. Resuming 42 behind, Vernon Philander had KL Rahul caught at second slip in his first over of the day. It was not a great shot: wide length ball, and he stretched out to poke at it. Soon Cheteshwar Pujara got an unplayable snorter from Morne Morkel, which kicked off a length and took the edge through to second slip.

With South Africa’s bowlers on a roll, India had to dig deep to make sure they didn’t lose the advantage they held. He has not it for long in this series, but in the most demanding conditions, Vijay finally reprised the dig-ins he is famous for. He left judiciously, drove only when the ball was too full, and was always on the lookout for a single. Kohli, at the other end, got into better positions to attack. There was one drive ball in the first whole first hour, and Kohli nailed the drive for four. That hour produced just 18 runs and two wickets.

India’s reaction to counter the excessive seam movement was to get as far forward as possible, especially Kohli, never mind the high pace of bowlers other than Philander. It takes high skill to face such accurate bowling of such high pace on a pitch where you can’t judge the pace, bounce and movement off the pitch. Never mind having to keep getting the runs to retain your advantage in the Test. For the bowlers there was a difficulty too: it seamed too much, and often missed the edges.

Like with India’s change bowlers in the second hour of day two, the half-volleys began to arrive, and Kohli was in no mood to miss any. Going at a strike rate of over 55 on this pitch, Kohli will surely rate this as one of his best innings if he can continue with the effort and take India to a total that wins them the Test. In isolation, it was already an excellent knock. The most impressive part was his leaves, which he didn’t do in Cape Town. He didn’t follow with his hands balls that seamed away. He would have loved to have Vijay’s company for the second session too, but India already had something on the board, which was an enviable position on this pitch.

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