India vs South Africa: Visitors need Cheteshwar Pujara to step up on Day 5 to keep hopes of retaining trophy alive

India need Cheteshwar Pujara to anchor the Indian innings on Day 5 of the second Test, with the rest of the Indian middle-order also stepping up to the cause.

FirstCricket Staff, January 17, 2018

A stonewalling effort from Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander combined with an inspirational spell from debutant Lungi Ngidi helped the South Africans seize control early in India's second essay on Day 4 of the ongoing second Test.

Du Plessis and Philander produced a patient sixth-wicket stand worth 46, with the pair consuming as many as 26 overs during the partnership. It helped rescue the hosts after they were reduced to 163/5 at one stage, with the possibility of getting shot out for less than 200 looking quite possible given the momentum that the Indian bowlers were exhibiting. Du Plessis produced another captain's knock down the order, falling just two short of a well-deserved half-century, one that would've been his second in this Test.

Cheteshwar Pujara holds the key to India pulling off a miracle on Day 5. Reuters

Cheteshwar Pujara holds the key to India pulling off a miracle on Day 5. Reuters

After being set a challenging target of 287 to level the series, India began on a nervous note with both Murali Vijay and KL Rahul taking their time to adjust to the crease. The former was the first to depart, getting his off-stump rattled by a Kagiso Rabada delivery, while Rahul gifted his wicket away about 20 deliveries later, guiding the ball straight into the hands of point. Yet another poor start for the Indians in this tour.

Skipper Virat Kohli was expected to produce another gem after leading the way for the hosts in the previous innings with a 153. However, debutant Ngidi made this match all the more memorable by trapping the Indian captain leg-before with a delivery that stayed low and angled into the batsman sharply. Kohli tried reviewing it out of pure hope, but it was too easy a decision for the umpire in the first place.

While No 3 batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has looked solid in his stay so far, Parthiv Patel has been roughed up a bit in his 24-ball stay at the crease so far. The two however, have an enormous task ahead of them as they seek to pull off a miracle on the final day of the ongoing Test — the miracle being staving off a defeat at any cost, and not necessarily chasing the target down. For the Indians to keep their hopes of retaining the Freedom Trophy alive, Pujara has to step up for once in this tour, and anchor the remainder of the Indian innings and hope the others in the middle order also step up in his support.

Otherwise, it already looks like a one-way road that eventually leads to a massive South African victory.

Updated Date: Jan 16, 2018

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