It couldn’t get worse than this is what South Africa might have thought after an innings defeat in the Pune Test which effectively closed down the series. All those beliefs were shattered by the Indian bowlers on the third day of the Ranchi Test who ran through the visitors’ batting line-up, almost twice.
As if nine for two was not troubling enough to start the proceedings, South Africa lost 16 wickets on a disastrous day, that too, when Zubayr Hamza and Temba Bavuma had batted for almost 22 overs together in the morning session.
However, Umesh Yadav’s first four deliveries in the first over of the day, three of which were straying down the batsmen’s legs were a little indication of things to come. Hamza collected seven runs off those four balls and Umesh did not take much time to correct his line. He greeted Faf du Plessis with a ripper, hitting the top of his off stump with a stunning outswinger which was too hot for the Proteas’ skipper facing his first ball of the day.
But the aforementioned pair of Hamza and Bavuma steadied the innings for the tourists. Despite the scoreboard reading 16 for three, both the batsmen batted with freedom, not afraid of punishing the bad balls. While Bavuma seemed solid, Hamza, playing his first game of the tour, left his imprint with his elegant strokeplay. He completed his maiden half-century in Test cricket with a six off the struggling Ravichandran Ashwin in the morning session.
The duo added 91 runs off 131 balls before Hamza misjudged the pace on Ravindra Jadeja’s straight delivery. Opting to play the 79th ball of innings on the backfoot, he missed a straight one from the left-arm spinner which skidded along the deck beating Hamza’s bat to hit his leg stump.
Four balls later, Shahbaz Nadeem bowled a beauty luring Bavuma out of the crease leaving the right-hander high and dry way down the track. Wicketkeeper, Wriddhiman Saha did the rest to give Nadeem his first wicket in international cricket. Nadeem became only the fourth Indian bowler to have stump dismissal as his first Test wicket and the first in 25 years after Aashish Kapoor had Carl Hooper stumped by Sanjay Manjrekar in 1994.
107 for five soon became 130 for eight. Heinrich Klaasen was bowled by another beauty, this time from Jadeja and Dane Piedt was trapped in front of the stumps by Mohammed Shami. To make matters worse, Kagiso Rabada ran himself out attempting a single off the misfield by Umesh Yadav at mid-off who recovered in time to score a direct-hit sending Rabada back.
George Linde and Anrich Nortje tried their best to delay the inevitable. The duo stayed together for 104 balls to accumulate 32 runs until Umesh ended Linde’s knock of 37 runs by producing an outside edge which was pouched safely by Rohit Sharma at second slip.
Anrich Nortje was the last wicket to fall after a brave knock of four runs from 55 balls. Nortje received a taste of his own medicine from Shami who struck him on his right blow. The innings folded on a total of 162 when Nadeem struck his pads in front of the stumps.
After a sumptuous partnership between Hamza and Bavuma, the only highlight of the day for the visitors, South Africa collapsed to lose seven wickets for 55 runs in a space of approximately 30 overs. Virat Kohli took the opportunity to enforce the follow-on for the third time this year signalling Faf du Plessis’ side to bat again while walking back to the dressing room. 14.3 - Theunis de Bruyn’s false shot percentage against spin this innings, the lowest amongst all South African batsmen.
South Africa, batting again with the hopes of a better performance, were dealt with an identical start when Umesh Yadav struck in his first over with the new ball for the third time in the series. Quinton de Kock again capitulated to Umesh’s searing speed losing his off pole. Shami joined the party by removing Hamza (bowled), du Plessis (lbw) and Bavuma (caught behind). In no time, South Africa collapsed again, this time falling to 22 for four. Things got worse when Dean Elgar was hit on his helmet by a rising delivery from Umesh at the stroke of tea.
Consequently, he was substituted for Theunis de Bruyn, who, by far, is the top scorer of the innings, currently unbeaten on 30 at the end of the day. However, it was not only about pace as Ashwin and Jadeja chipped in with a wicket each and Nadeem contributed with a run out taking South Africa down to 121 for eight with a handful of minutes left in the day’s play.
With the incentive of finishing the game today itself, umpires did allow the Indian team the extra half an hour. But the fading light allowed only three overs which were safely negotiated by de Bruyn and Nortje.
South Africa have only two wickets left with very little to achieve. Out of the 18 wickets to fall today, eight were taken by the pacers who kept the tourists under pressure by bowling a fusillade of unplayable deliveries. After succumbing to spin in their previous Test series, the Proteas batsmen have failed to handle the steam of Indian pacers in the series and the day’s play was a perfect testimony to that.