Nagpur: Indian batsmen capitulated meekly against both pace and spin to be shot out for 215 before hitting back at South Africa with two early scalps on day one of the third and penultimate Test in Nagpur on Wednesday.
The home team, leading 1-0 in the rubber, once again fell back on their spin force to dismiss opener Stiaan van Zyl for a duck and Imran Tahir (4), who came in as a nightwatchman, before the visitors ended the day at 11 for two after 9 overs at the VCA ground at Jamtha.
South African cricket team celebrate a wicket. Pic/ PTI
Openers Dean Elgar (7) and captain Hashim Amla (0) were at the crease to face Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who tasted early blood by plucking a wicket apiece to threaten mayhem on a spinning track on Thursday.
Earlier, on a pitch that offered plenty of turn to the spinners and reverse swing to fast bowler Morne Morkel, the home team batsmen came a cropper after opting to bat first and were gasping at 125 for 6 before the tail wagged and took the total past the 200-mark. This is the third time that India have been dismissed in the vicinity of 200 in the series, having fallen for 201 and 200 in the opening Test they won at Mohali to take a 1-0 lead.
In-form opener Murali Vijay top scored with an innings of 40, while wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha (32) and Ravindra Jadeja (34) revived the tottering innings briefly. Cheteshwar Pujara (21) and skipper Virat Kohli (22) got decent starts only to throw them away.
Shikhar Dhawan. Pic/ PTI
For South Africa the early damage was done by lanky pacer Morkel, who grabbed a superb 3 for 35 in three spells before limping off the field after bowling the first ball of his fourth. His wicket-taking spells, the second and third, read 4-2-8-1 and 4-2-8-2. Off spinner Simon Harmer, dropped from the team in the drawn Bengaluru Test after playing in the series opener at Mohali, supported him with a fine haul of 4 for 78, by getting good purchase off the turning track.Young fast bowler Kagiso Rabada and spinners Elgar and Tahir accounted for the other wickets.
There were only two significant partnerships in the Indian innings -- 50 between openers Vijay and Dhawan and 48 between Saha and Jadeja. The Indian innings got off to a fine start when Vijay, who struck a six and 3 fours in his 84-ball knock, and Dhawan (12) put on their second successive half century stand of the series.
An opening stand on 50 runs set the innings in the morning before losing Vijay and Dhawan in the second hour to adjourn to the interval at 85 for 2. Dhawan, denied strike for long, was lured out by Elgar soon after the 50 was raised in 13.4 overs and spooned a drive back to the left arm slow bowler who accepted a return catch to his right.
The left hander's 12 came off 23 balls and 68 minutes and was his third low score in the series after bagging a pair in the opening Test at Mohali followed by an unbeaten 45 in the rained out second game at Bengaluru.
South Africa, then, hit back strongly through Morkel in the first hour post lunch. The loss of both the batsmen in the second hour before lunch followed by a dramatic post-lunch middle-order collapse undid the initial good work. The batsmen dismissed, mostly to poor shots, were Pujara (21), skipper Virat Kohli (22), Ajinkya Rahane (13) and Rohit Sharma, who did not play in the first two Tests.
In the space of 15 overs after lunch India lost four wickets for the addition of only 31 runs after being 95 for two -- Morkel and Harmer doing the damage. Morkel, who got rid of Vijay in the first session, added the wickets of Kohli and Rahane to his kitty in a fiery third spell of 4-2-8-2
India (first innings)
Murali Vijay lbw b Morkel 40
Shikhar Dhawan c & b Elgar 12
Cheteshwar Pujara lbw b Harmer 21
Virat Kohli c Vilas b Morkel 22
Ajinkya Rahane b Morkel 13
Rohit Sharma c de Villiers b Harmer 2
Wriddhiman Saha c Duminy b Harmer 32
Ravindra Jadeja b Rabada 34
Ravichandran Ashwin b Imran Tahir 15
Amit Mishra lbw b Harmer 3
Ishant Sharma not out 0
Extras (b 15, lb 3, w 2, nb 1) 21
Total (all out; 78.2 overs) 215
Fall of wickets: 1-50 (Dhawan, 13.6 overs), 2-69 (Vijay, 21.2), 3-94 (Pujara, 30.1), 4-115 (Rahane, 37.2), 5-116 (Kohli, 39.2), 6-125 (R Sharma, 46.2), 7-173 (Jadeja, 63.6), 8-201 (Saha, 72.6), 9-215 (Ashwin, 77.6), 10-215 (Mishra, 78.2)
Morne Morkel 16.1-7-35-3
Kagiso Rabada 17-8-30-1
Simon Harmer 27.2-2-78-4
Dean Elgar 4-0-7-1
Imran Tahir 12.5-1-41-1
JP Duminy 1-0-6-0
South Africa (first innings)
Dean Elgar not out 7
Stiaan van Zyl c Rahane b Ashwin 0
Imran Tahir b Jadeja 4
Hashim Amla not out 0
Total (2 wickets; 9 overs) 11
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (van Zyl, 3.1 overs), 2-9 (Imran Tahir, 6.5)
Ishant Sharma 2-1-4-0
Ravichandran Ashwin 4-2-5-1
Ravindra Jadeja 3-1-2-1
Toss: India chose to bat
Umpires: Ian Gould (England) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
TV umpire: Anil Chaudhary (India)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
Reserve umpire: C. Shamshuddin (India)