Jasprit Bumrah bowled India into a position of strength with searching spells of swing bowling on an absorbing day of Test cricket at Newlands on Wednesday.
By the end of the second day of the third and deciding Test, India had reached 57/2 for an overall lead of 70 over SA.
Bumrah bagged five wickets in SA’s first innings to drag India back into the contest and put them in a position to dictate terms.
Like Kagiso Rabada, who now has 18 wickets in the series, Bumrah, leading the attack on day one, had to stand up when it really mattered. He more than answered the call with figures of 5/42 from 23.3 overs.
India had two of their most senior batsmen, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, at the crease when stumps were drawn and they will look to the pair to build on the lead on Thursday morning.
SA will attach themselves to the belief they can repeat the heroics of their successful fourth innings chase at the Wanderers, but that will take some doing on a pitch where scoring runs is an increasingly perilous exercise.
India will of course consider what happened at the Wanderers an aberration and will feel confident they can set a target that will daunt SA and ultimately prove beyond them.
SA made a promising start in their quest to restrict the tourists and by the end of the sixth over had removed both openers. No further inroads were made on a day that belonged to India.
It was clear from the start on the second morning that the tide was ready to shift, but SA opener Aiden Markram hardly helped his cause by shouldering arms to a ball that nipped back and hit the top of his off stump. It immediately put SA on the back foot, while India were gradually able to assert themselves in the field.
Running in from the Kelvin End in the morning session, Bumrah proved a handful. He troubled most of the batters with a testing line and also extracted bounce that kept the SA top six on their toes. To the tail-enders he went even shorter and the SA quicks either copped blows or took different forms of evasive action.
After their pre-lunch mishaps SA sought to repair the damage and at 112/3, including the wicket of nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj, they would have harboured aspirations of building a first-innings lead. But the imminent demise of Rassie van der Dussen changed the tone of the day’s proceedings. It didn’t extinguish the hosts hopes of getting a lead but it drove home the magnitude of the task facing them.
SA would have been enthused by dismissing India for 223 on the first day, but that total appeared more daunting as the shadows lengthened here on the second day.
Bumrah was ably supported by Mohammed Shami, who was wholehearted in his efforts from the Wynberg End. He struck huge blows when he removed Temba Bavuma and Kyle Verreynne in quick succession.
On a pitch that demanded vigilance, three batters did the hard work up front, only to undo their graft by getting out. It was the kind of pitch batters never felt “in”. Even Keegan Petersen, who looked untroubled, suddenly succumbed to a Bumrah delivery that bounced steeper than he anticipated.
Having faced 166 deliveries, the crestfallen batter gazed down the wicket before making a deliberately slow departure.
India, who had SA three down at lunch, grabbed four more by tea. Still, the home team held out hope that Petersen could provide some sting with the tail and take them beyond the tourists’ first innings total.
Shortly after tea, however, Petersen also nicked one from Bumrah to be caught behind.
His 72 provided the backbone of the South African innings, but that no other batter reached 30 proved hugely problematic for the home team.
SA were eventually bowled out for 210.
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