South Africa gained a slight upper hand in the second Test at the Centurion before bad light forced early stumps. India started off the day trailing by 152 and the first thing the Proteas needed was Virat Kohli's wicket. Kohli and Hardik Pandya, the overnight batsmen, started off cautiously, it was the partnership on which the Indians were riding their hopes to get close to the South African total or may be even take a lead. But a moment of madness cost Pandya as he failed to ground his bat inside the crease after being sent back trying to take a single. Philander scored a direct hit and India were 209/6. Kohli, however, was is an altogether different zone, he desperately needed some support and this is when Ashwin stepped up, despite being peppered by short stuff, Ashwin showed grit and elegance to stitch a crucial 71-run stand with Kohli.
Kohli was hitting some imperious drives and looked completely in control. No matter the Proteas were targeting his partners. Just when it has started getting frustrating for the hosts, Philander struck with the new ball to have Ashwin caught in slips. Mohammed Shami didn't last long. The onus was on Kohli to get India as close to the Proteas total as possible. He then stitched a small but important stand of 25 with Ishant Sharma and in process brought up his 150. Ishant was then bounced out by Morkel and Kohli finally got out on 152. South Africa had gained, what might prove to be crucial in the context of the game, a 28-run lead.
It was a tricky situation for the hosts. And it became more difficult as the Indian bowlers — Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin came out firing on all cylinders. Bumrah sent back Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla inside first six overs. Ashwin was troubling Dean Elgar. But then, just like the the first innings of the first Test, AB de Villiers turned it around. The pitch looked to have gotten a bit lively. But with De Villiers, it never looks difficult. He went on a counter attack. Elgar, on the other hand played a doughty knock as the pair added 87 unbeaten runs for the third wicket. South Africa are 118 runs ahead.
But there is a lot of work to do. De Villiers has already reached 50 off 78 balls and some quick runs in the first hour might tke the sting out of the Indian bowling. Elgar would look to play the second fiddle and then the South Africa middle order needs to make sure they build a substantial lead. With rain in the air, the pitch might liven up in the morning and it will be a crucial first hour. De Villiers won't mind attacking the bowling to neutralise the threat. If De Villiers stays longer at the crease, South Africa can build a sizeable lead and that too quickly. Yes it won't be easy but de Villiers makes everything look easy. After Kohli special we might be in for a De Villiers masterclass.