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India steady after spinners restrict South Africa

De Villiers, playing his 100th Test, makes a defiant 85 out of his team's 214 in the second Test in Bangalore

India steady after spinners restrict South Africa  - Cricket News
India's spinners took eight wickets between them as South Africa was bowled out for 214 on the opening day of the second Test.
At lunch on the first day of the second Test, AB de Villiers had batted for 40 minutes in what was his 100th Test match. After the break, he would go on to bat for almost two hours more. The 159 minutes he spent at the crease were the highlight in what proved to be another difficult day of Test cricket for the visiting South Africans, with India bowling the side out for 214 in 59 overs. 

Virat Kohli's men then got to 80 for no loss in 22 overs at the close of play on Saturday (November 14), having cut the deficit to just 134 runs.

De Villiers got 85 of South Africa's runs, and that he did so off only 105 deliveries seemed incidental, because his batting was not about hitting out in one-day mode, but simply putting the ball away when he could and not letting the bowlers get on top. However, one other South African batsman made more than 25 to offer him support.

Kohli had won the toss and, somewhat surprisingly, chose to bowl first at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. His reasoning was that the track would have some moisture due to the rain that has lashed the city and offer something to his bowlers on the first day. Kohli was proved half-right and the Indian bowlers did come to the fore, but it was the spin duo of R Ashwin (4 for 70) and Ravindra Jadeja (4 for 50) who did the bulk of the damage. Both struck at important times, both played to their strengths and both reaped the rewards.

India made the decision to axe Amit Mishra and bring in Stuart Binny for his first Test on his home ground, and in combination with the returning Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron, that made for an attack of three seamers and two spinners.

Kohli, however, sussed the conditions quickly and Binny wasn’t given a bowl after an opening spell of 3-2-1-0. Ashwin was brought on as early as the eight over and reaped immediate dividends. Stiaan van Zyl was trapped plumb in front with Ashwin’s second ball, and off his fifth, Faf du Plessis was gone. Coming down the track, du Plessis only managed an inside edge for a diving Cheteshwar Pujara to take a sharp chance at forward short-leg.

South Africa was 15 for 2 in the eighth over after the tight opening spell, and the Indians didn’t let the pressure relent. Hashim Amla was done in by a corker from Aaron.

At 45 for 3, the Bangalore crowd found its voice to welcome de Villiers, and it was evident quite soon that South Africa’s talisman was batting on a different plane from the rest of the side. Dancing down the pitch with sure-footed nimbleness or staying back to play the ball late, de Villiers had an assurance about him.

Dean Elgar had shown resilience to take South Africa to lunch without any further damage at 78 for 3, but he threw it away immediately after, an ill-advised sweep shot having moved too far across, only resulting in Jadeja’s delivery trickling onto the stumps off his gloves. Elgar was distraught, and rightly so, having done the hard work in getting to 38 off 81 balls.

South Africa needed JP Duminy, one of the three changes to South Africa’s XI alongside Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel, to build a partnership with de Villiers. For a while, Duminy put his head down, but Ashwin was in dangerous form. Bowling from around the stumps, the offspinner had the left-hand batsman going back to defend, only to see the ball dip, pitch and turn while taking the outside edge on the way to Ajinkya Rahane in the slips. 

Ashwin’s mastery of flight was very much on display, and no batsman could relax against him. They were in peril against the wily Jadeja too, whose mix of spin and lack-of-turn could not be deciphered.

All the while, de Villiers was in cruise control, using bat when necessary and pad where applicable to keep the ball out and hit it around. An outstanding piece of work by Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps ended de Villiers’s stay with tea imminent. The batsman had jumped down the track to Jadeja and got a glove. The ball would have popped harmlessly back on the ground but Saha ran around the stumps and flung himself forward to complete a stunning catch.  

South Africa was 177 for 7 at the stroke of tea, and Morkel and Abbott stretched the total beyond 200.

In India's reply, M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan made good use of a surface that had become better for batting in the latter half of the day. With Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander missing, the Indian openers were not unduly troubled. Dhawan got back among the runs after his pair in Mohali. At stumps, he was batting on an assured 45, while Vijay was unbeaten on 28, with both looking good for a lot more.

To view the full scorecard, please click here.

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