3rd Test: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli fifties only saving grace as India post 187

Updated: Jan 25, 2018, 08:51 IST | Anand Vasu

Except for half centuries from Pujara and skipper Kohli, Indian batsmen put up yet another spineless show on Day One of third and final Test

Cheteshwar Pujara drives one en route his 50 on Day One of the third and final Test against South Africa in Johannesburg yesterday. Pic/AFP
Cheteshwar Pujara drives one en route his 50 on Day One of the third and final Test against South Africa in Johannesburg yesterday. Pic/AFP

India's tourism department came up with the snappy slogan Incredible India, to help sell the many irresistible destinations the country has to offer to tourists. The Indian cricket team is doing its best to change this to Intriguing India. After picking five seam bowlers, of varying pace, and dropping the spinner, Virat Kohli won his first toss of the series in overcast conditions on a spicy pitch and chose to bat.

There is a thin line between bravery and bravado, and it was clear that India were flirting with the former when they were bowled out for only 187. Thankfully, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, back in the team after being dropped for the second Test, nipped out the wicket of Aiden Markram to keep South Africa at 6-1 when stumps were drawn. There was no doubt that the conditions were excessively helpful to fast bowlers — and this would not have gone unnoticed by Andy Pycroft, the match referee — but that only made India's decision to bat even more odd.

Both openers played with feet planted and hands loose to be dismissed cheaply, and Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were left doing damage control in the middle of a forensic examination by swing, seam, pace and bounce. Kohli's method was to attack, and while this looked stunning when it came off, it also resulted in two chances, a sitter to mid-off and a dipping edge to slip, that were put down on his way to 54. Pujara went the other direction, leaving and blocking, playing and missing yet surviving, and only got off the mark with the 54th ball he faced. He received ironic cheers from the crowd but was in no room for humour given the grim situation that faced him.

Kohli was not three times lucky, a flashing edge to a wide ball held well by AB de Villiers at third slip, and Pujara (50) nibbled at the medium-pace of Andile Phehlukwayo to finally be dislodged after 179 balls at the crease. There was little to write home about as far as the rest of the batting was concerned, other than that Parthiv Patel might have ruled himself out of contention for Test cricket outside the subcontinent and Hardik Pandya showed that he and Kapil Dev cannot be mentioned in the same sentence just yet. Bhuvneshwar made 30 invaluable runs.

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