Cape Town: Hardik Pandya's swift yet brutal counter attack provided India with much needed breathing space as they reached 185 for 7 at tea against South Africa on the second day of the opening Test.
All-rounder Pandya justified his inclusion scoring an unbeaten 81 off 68 balls and also added an invaluable 93 runs for the 8th wicket with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (24 batting) after India looked down and out at 92 for 7.
India are now 101 runs short of South Africa's first innings score of 286 and more importantly their premnier bowler Dale Steyn left the field after bowling three deliveries in his 15th over.
Pandya hit 13 fours and a six off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj during his entertaining knock. The Baroda dasher didn't complicate things and more importantly like AB de Villiers decided to take the attack back to the opposition camp without trying to defend doggedly.
He trusted the bounce, got on top of the rising deliveries and played some audacious strokes despite getting two reprieves on 15 and 71 respectively. At the score of 71, Pandya gave Maharaj the charge but missed it completely and Quinton de Kock made a mess of stumping opportunity.
Post lunch, Vernon Philander (3/33) struck off the very first ball as Cheteshwar Pujara (26) was caught at second slip. Two overs later, he had Ravichandran Ashwin (12) caught behind as India were reduced to 81/6. It was Philander's 100th Test wicket at home.
It became 92/7 soon after as Dale Steyn (2-51) trapped Wriddhiman Saha (0) leg before as the batsman didn't offer a stroke to an incoming delivery. Earlier, Pujara (26) battled hard during the first session only to be dismissed off the first ball in the post lunch session. Only 48 runs were scored off 25 overs during the first session in which Rohit Sharma (11, 59 balls) was trapped leg before by Kagiso Rabada after he did all the hardwork during the first hour.
Starting from overnight score of 28 for 3, Pujara and Rohit were ready to show patience and frustrate the opposition bowlers. They were content playing out deliveries and preserving wickets rather than scoring runs.
Philander didn't concede single run in his first five overs, keeping a tight leash on Rohit. He beat the batsman on a few occasions but it wasn't enough to induce an edge. Morkel came on as first change just before the drinks' break and immediately he extracted more bounce from the surface. India then crossed 50 in the 27th over. The visitors only added 17 runs in the first hour of play.
The big moment came when Rabada came on to bowl. He looked like taking a wicket from the very start as he troubled Rohit with pace, bounce and movement. Finally, in the 29th over, he succeeded in doing so, trapping Rohit plumb in-front. The batsman used up a DRS review but the decision stayed in South Africa's favour.
Pujara and Rohit had added 30 runs off 121 balls for the fourth wicket. Ashwin and Pujara batted out the remainder of the session. The former looked for scoring opportunities more than his partner and quickly moved into double figures to give some respectability to the Indian total going into the lunch break. (PTI)