Beginning after a quick turnaround, the first and the second Tests followed a similar narrative at the end of their respective second day. An exchange of responsibilities as Virat Kohli slams a double ton after Mayank Agarwal’s century à la Agarwal himself after Rohit Sharma’s hundred in the first Test, forced South Africa to chase the leather on the second day.
Kohli’s career-best innings of 254*, jewelled with 33 fours and two sixes, was ably assisted first by Ajinkya Rahane (58) and later by Ravindra Jadeja (91) to help India pile on 601/5d. Such was the carnage of extraordinary hitting post-tea that the pair of Kohli and Jadeja added 128 runs in 15.3 overs. A 225-run partnership between the duo piled on the misery for South Africa as the visitors were ground to dust by an all-out attack from both ends. To end the massacre, India declared after Jadeja mistimed a slog to long-off in the 157th over of the Indian innings.
On a tough day, the wheels fell off for South Africa across skill and composure. As if a part of an ongoing battle between them, Kagiso Rabada (6) and Senuran Muthusamy (5) bowled a total of eleven no-balls. None was more decisive than one from Muthusamy that had Kohli caught at the first-slip while he was batting on 208. Rabada and Quinton de Kock also engaged in a heated discussion earlier after an unnecessary throw from the fast bowler was not collected by the keeper and resulted in an overthrow.
After a hard day in the field on the first day, the writing was on the wall for South Africa after a wicket-less first session. Unable to judge the carry off the pitch, the visitors struggled with the position of their slip cordon all day allowing multiple opportunities to go begging.
Overestimating the purchase from the wicket, the slip cordon stood too deep to grab the opportunities offered early morning. In a testing period upfront, Vernon Philander induced a few outside edges first from Kohli that fell in front of first slip, away from the diving keeper, and then from Rahane two overs later that fell short of the third slip to his left.
After the initial burst, Kohli and Rahane were solid in the rest of the first session and added 83 runs in the phase to bring up their 10th century partnership. Defensive on the first day, Rahane played some commanding shots, none better than a cut of the back foot off Anrich Nortje as a reply to exchanged stares between them an over earlier.
Hitting only four boundaries in the morning session, Kohli brought up his 26th Test century with an exquisite straight drive off Philander.
Post lunch, Rahane added just one run to his score as he got tickle off Keshav Maharaj to de Kock. Promoted up the order, Jadeja played orthodox defensive cricket before going gung-ho in the final session. Among the fittest athletes in the team, Kohli and Jadeja played risk-free cricket in the afternoon session. Immaculate running between the wickets, frequent twos and odd threes were the trademark of the partnership as they added 117 runs off 28 overs in the afternoon session.
Misjudgment of slip positioning offered another string of chances to Kohli as Faf du Plessis, standing to close to the keeper at first slip, could not react to three edges past him, two in the same over off Maharaj that helped Kohli cross the 150-run mark.
The evening session observed quite a few records as Kohli first surpassed Sir Donald’s tally of 6,996 Test runs to go past 7000 runs and then notched up his seventh double hundred, a record among all Indian batsmen.
The chance offered off a no-ball from Muthusamy triggered the two batsmen to take more risks. 113 runs were then added in 11.3 overs as South Africa tried all four spinners and appeared largely clueless about the proceedings.
To top it all, facing 15 overs before the end of day’s play, South Africa managed to lose three wickets to provide the final touch to the similarity with the second day of the first Test.
Umesh Yadav, given the new ball ahead of Mohammed Shami, trapped Aiden Markram for a duck and then had Dean Elgar played on for 6. Theunis de Bruyn, milked the loose balls as he remained not-out on 20. Shami removed Temba Bavuma who nicked one to Wriddhiman Saha and was given out on review.
Nortje, in as a night watchman, survived an excellent spell from Shami that also induced an edge but was put down by Agarwal at the fourth slip. While Jadeja bowled four maiden overs, Ravichandran Ashwin did not bowl an over in the 15 over burst. Jadeja almost had de Bruyn, who offered catching practice to Rahane at first slip that fell short.
Buried under the mountain of runs scored by India and losing three quick wickets including the centurion from the first innings of the last Test, the South African hopes to remain alive in this series are dangling by a thread.