Pujara and Kohli batter South Africa
India 280 and 284 for 2 (Pujara 135*, Kohli 77*) lead South Africa 244 (Smith 68, Philander 59, Ishant 4-79) by 320 runs
On Friday morning, India fans were cautiously optimistic after their side put in tenacious displays on the first two days of a Test South Africa were widely expected to dominate. By Friday evening that had turned into full-blown jubilation as India's batsmen put them on course for what could be one of their greatest Test victories.
Most of India's young batsmen have forged their reputation on the back of high-octane limited-overs innings. For the second time in three days though, they showed they had the patience and adaptability to thrive in the longer format.
Cheteshwar Pujara gave a masterclass in innings building - he consumed 64 deliveries to make his first nine runs as Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander had the new ball curling around, but with the attack fading as the day progressed, he caned nearly a hundred runs in the final session.
Virat Kohli's dream Test continued, as he backed up a first-innings century that showcased his discipline with a more expansive half-century. He was the junior partner in an unbroken 191-run partnership for the third wicket with Pujara, which took the lead past 300, and almost certainly beyond South Africa's reach.
As good as the Indian batsmen were, their task was made a lot easier when Morne Morkel, South Africa's best bowler in the first innings, twisted his ankle while fielding and was ruled out of action for at least a week. With another specialist bowler, Imran Tahir, struggling to land the ball, South Africa were severely hampered but the presence of the allrounder Jacques Kallis softened the blow as he wheeled in gamely, and tested the batsmen for much of the second session.
By tea, the two frontline quicks, Steyn and Philander, had already sent down plenty of overs, and Graeme Smith was forced to turn to other options. Tahir had an extended spell which again contained a mix of long hops and full tosses, which helped India gallop along. But he did produce the only real chance of the final session, which only worsened his day, as he put down a simple caught-and-bowled opportunity, which would have ended Pujara's innings on 51.
Till then, though India were steadily moving into a strong position, the bowlers still had a say in the proceedings and were successful in limiting the batsmen from scoring. All the changed over the next couple of hours, as Pujara showed he can bash as well as he can block. The signature cuts shot made a frequent appearance, perhaps the best of which was when he slapped Kallis for four first in front of point and off the next ball behind point. The wheels came off for South Africa as Pujara and Kohli plundered 46 in five overs.
The variable bounce seemed to vanish, and the Wanderers seemed more of a flat track than one on which batsmen had struggled over the past two days.
With the shine off the ball, Kohli was in an enterprising mood right from the start as he faced down a high-speed spell from Steyn, who was constantly bowling in the mid-140s just before tea - about 10km more than he averages with the new ball. A top-edged pull for four marked the start of Kohli's boundary count, though the others were far more convicing, as he reached his 50 off 74 deliveries.
Though his powerful pull off Philander a few overs before close was a representation of India's total domination, he was a bit subdued after his half-century, with Pujara scoring the bulk of the runs. A cracking drive through cover off Steyn brought up Pujara's first century away from home, something he has desperately been craving for, and he accepted the gifts on offer from Tahir and Duminy to finish unbeaten on 135.
The batsmen extended the good work done by Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma at the start of the day, wrapping up the South Africa tail within 45 minutes to hand India a 36-run first-innings advantage.
Perhaps the one bright spot for South Africa on the day was Philander rewarded with the wicket of Dhawan early for a terrific opening spell, a dismissal that made him the fastest South African to 100 Test wickets. That will be cold comfort for South Africa fans, after they witnessed one of their teams toughest days in Test cricket in recent years.
کہاں اتنی سزائیں تھیں بھلا اس زندگانی میں
ہزاروں گھر ہوئے روشن جو میرا دل جلا محسنؔ