Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock struck centuries to help South Africa avoid the threat of a follow-on and reach 385-8 at stumps on day three of the first Test against India today.
The Proteas resumed in some trouble on 39 for 3 in reply to their hosts’ first-innings of 502 for 7 declared, but Elgar scored 160 off 287 balls before De Kock struck 111 off 163 deliveries.
The pair put on 164 runs for the sixth wicket, allowing South Africa to ease past the follow-on mark but at stumps the Proteas were still 117 runs in arrears after spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (5-128) took his 27th five-wicket haul.
India’s attempts to force home their early advantage were thwarted by South Africa, who lost only two wickets in the first two sessions.
Ishant Sharma trapped Temba Bavuma (18) lbw before lunch, while Faf du Plessis fell for 55 in the afternoon to end a partnership of 115 runs with Elgar.
That breakthrough brought Elgar and De Kock together and they weren’t parted until the 100th over when Elgar holed out to deep mid-wicket off Ravindra Jadeja (2-116).
De Kock helped South Africa cross 350 in the next over but fell to Ashwin, pushing the ball onto the stumps off his pads. Ashwin made it a quick double blow as he bowled Vernon Philander for a 10-ball duck.
Elgar’s 160 was 18 short of the highest score by a visiting batsman in India’s latest dominant run at home, de Kock’s 111 was a wonderful display of natural talent backed by a clear head. It was hard work for India’s spinners on a pitch that might not have been as flat as Rajkot against England or Delhi against Sri Lanka but didn’t quite break up like Indian pitches do of late. That shouldn’t take credit away from South Africa who were ruthless against any marginal error in length, especially on the fuller side.
For long periods of the innings, South Africa’s was the second-fastest innings of 80 overs or longer by an away team in India in this dominant post 2013 era. Elgar, de Kock and du Plessis, who nearly matched his 2015 series tally of 60 runs in one innings, hit 42 fours and seven sixes between them. That’s 64.4 per cent of their runs in boundaries.
The most striking method, though, was Elgar’s, who had to fight through a top-order collapse on the first evening and saw Bavuma go early on the third morning.
During the last South Africa tour of India, Ashwin had mocked Elgar by saying in a press conference that this is not Johannesburg with regards to his dismissal trying to hit off-spin against the turn. In this innings, though, Elgar, who called the pitches on the last tour a farce, kept playing Ashwin against the turn.
Thirty-six of Elgar’s runs against Ashwin came through the leg side, including the slog sweep to bring up the century.
Ashwin showed he was a good sport by applauding the innings even before the ball had landed beyond the midwicket boundary.