JOHANNESBURG – South Africa have the key wicket of India captain Virat Kohli, but sloppy play in the field allowed the tourists to crawl to 114 for four at tea on the opening day of the third and final test at The Wanderers in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
India won the toss and opted to bat on a wicket with plenty of grass and the home bowlers were able to exploit the conditions, beating the bat on numerous occasions, but also spurning three big opportunities to drive home their advantage.
Cheteshwar Pujara resumes after the interval on a patient 27 from 145 balls, along with Parthiv Patel, who has yet to score.
It has been a frustrating day so far for an unusually sloppy South Africa, who dropped Kohli twice before he was finally caught by AB de Villiers at third slip off Lungi Ngidi for 54.
De Villiers had put him down on 34 and Vernon Philander spilled a chance when Kohli was on 11, but the Indian captain was unable to make them pay.
Philander (1-22) then had Ajinkya Rahane (9) caught by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock off a no-ball, his blushes saved when Morne Morkel (1-35) trapped the batsman leg before wicket soon afterwards.
The home side could also had Pujara dismissed by Ngidi (1-7 from 10 overs) but failed to review the umpire’s decision to turn down the lbw appeal. Replays showed the ball would have crashed into leg stump.
On a seaming wicket on which 250 would be an above-par score, those spurned chances could yet come back to haunt the South Africans.
Both sides have picked an all-seam attack for the game and it was a brave decision by Kohli to bat first under heavy skies.
They lost opener Lokesh Rahul (zero) early when he edged Philander, playing in his 50th test, to De Kock.
India’s openers have struggled in this series against the new ball, averaging only 12.3 before losing their first wicket, and it was soon two down as Murali Vijay (seven) also edged to De Kock off Kagiso Rabada (1-31).
South Africa made one change for the match, with all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo replacing spinner Keshav Maharaj. India made two changes, with batsman Ajinkya Rahane and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar replacing Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin respectively.
The home side have already claimed the series with an unassailable 2-0 lead but are chasing a first clean-sweep against India.