The second test of Freedom series between India & South Africa started yesterday at MCA stadium in Pune. Virat Kohli on his 50th test won the toss and opted to bat first to no one’s surprise. The Pitch looked & played out to be a hard surface there was enough pace & carry which would have sure excited the South African unit.

There was 1 change in the line up for both the teams, something I did predict in my last post while analyzing the outcome of 1st test match, I was so close to being correct.  India opted for 5 bowlers strategy but having looked at the hard surface it was Umesh inn for Vihari, not Kuldeep. South Africans did the expected by going back to their strength bto bring in the 3rd seemer in Anrich Nortje & dropped Dan Peidt. It was a little surprise for two reasons Nortje ahead of Nigidi and the off-spinner dropped ahead of Muthuswamy who looked to have retained his place more for his batting credentials as he hardly did anything with the ball in hand. Also with Maharaj being your primary spinner why have another left-arm orthodox in Muthuswamy? It looked a very defensive move from Faf, showing less faith in his batsmen.

The first hour of the game was the purest form of test cricket, there was pace & carry, the combination of Rabada and Philander made the most of it. Both Rohit & Mayank were tested, they were beaten a few times but with some luck, Mayank survived and Rohit couldn’t. He got a Peach of a delivery from Rabada to nick one behind to decock.  A little bit of a lively track was Rohit’s technique found out? too early to answer but he would be slightly disappointed not to continue his form. Pujara came in at no.3, before getting off the mark he survived a sharp chance at forward short-leg as Temba Bavuma couldn’t hold on to it of Rabada’s bowling. Overall initial hour of play belonged to the Proteas. But post that Pujara & Mayank steadied the ship with a solid partnership, once Rabada was out of the attack, Faf & co looked flat. On day one track Maharaj got no big assistance with likes of Nortje he has express pace but bowled too full or short to conceded quick runs which did shift the game into balance. Indian went into Lunch with no more damage done.

Post lunch session began with Faf not opting to Rabada for more than an hour, it surprised many even Graeme Smith up there in com box pleading for his introduction. On the other hand, Mayank & Pujara slowly laid a solid foundation by latching up their 100 run partnership. As a pair, they attacked the spinners to make the most of the conditions on offer. By the time Rabada was brought in both the batters made it past 50 & Mayank was well into his 70’s. But the man with the golden arm struck a vital blow, as he removed the set Pujara, he nicked one behind to Faf in first slip, the carry to slip would have made the Proteas feel more at home. This wicket was crucial as the Partnership was taking the game away from them.  On the back of the wicket, Mayank raised to his Century in sublime fashion, his second in his short career and second consecutive hundred in back to back test games. He is turning out to be a class act, just turned 29 if he could continue to score at this rate will eventually play a big part in this team for the next 5-6 years. Virat, on the other hand, had an unusual slow start, maybe suggesting the track is not easy for the new batsman walking in.  Just as the partnership was trying to grow Rabada once again struck gold by removing the well-set centurian Mayank, he nicked one as Faf took a sharp catch at first slip. The scoreboard read 198-3, everyone expected the Proteas to smell blood there and attack for a few more quick wickets. But to everone’s surprise again Faf took Rabada off the attack which eventually allowed Virat & Rahane to settle inn. They both took India into the post-tea session.

The post-tea session began as Faf refused to bring in Rabada into the game. Virat started to flourish as he started to rotate strike then took the attack to Maharaj & Muthuswamy to score more freely. Rahane played watchful innings to settle down at the other end. The Partnership helped India go past 250. Now with no other option to turn to Faf had to look for Rabada to do the magic, but it looked a little late to get him in for a decent spell as the light started to fade out.  At the stroke of 85th over with scored board reading 273/3 the umpires called off the day’s play due to bad light. The game is still in the balance but one could say India holds a slight upper hand as they have wickets in hand and are close to 300.

At the end of the day out of the two captains, Virat would be the happier one. Opted to bat on Day 1 track, with score little less than 300 with just 3 wickets down he couldn’t have asked for more. It would be a contrasting story on the Proteas camp they would think on the lost opportunity to push India on the back foot when Rabada stuck twice in quick time to remove both well-settled batsmen. To add to it Faf didn’t use his best bowler of the day to good effect, he stopped rabada’s spell whenever he got wickets & looked raring to go. Had he been kept on the attack whenever new batsmen came in, there is every chance Southafrica might be on the driver’s seat.

With the test well-poised Day 2 should be an exciting contest starting in a few hours’ time.  #IndVsSA #Freedomseries #GandhiMandelaseries




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