South Africa finally showed some fight in the second Test against India in Pune and the fight came from unexpected corners for the Proteas on the third day at the MCA Stadium.
After India had run through the top-order, Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj were involved in a record 9th wicket stand to stall India. The duo batted out 43.1 overs before Keshav Maharaj fell to R Ashwin towards the end of the day.
The 109-run stand between Philander and Maharaj is now the highest 9th wicket partnership in India-South Africa Tests.
Resuming at their overnight score of 36 for 3, South Africa lost Anrich Nortje and Theunis de Bruyn within the first hour of the third morning. Skipper Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock sought to keep India’s rampaging bowling attack at bay but a brilliant R Ashwin delivery accounted for the latter.
Soon after Ravindra Jadeja dismissed Senuran Muthusamy and when Ashwin snared a dangerous looking Faf du Plessis for 64, it looked like South Africa were hastening to the end of their first innings.
But at 162 for 8, Philander and Maharaj came together and showed the top-order batsmen how to bat in these conditions. The Pune pitch has been flat but India have bowled brilliantly in this Test.
However, some of South Africa’s batsmen were left to rue their shot-selection when they watched Philander and Maharaj steer the innings in the later stages of the day.
Philander and Maharaj added 109 runs for the 9th wicket but more importantly batted out 43.1 overs. R Ashwin picked his fourth wicket when he trapped Kagiso Rabada lbw as South Africa were all-out for 275. India finished with a lead of 326 runs.
At one stage, India were on the cusp of an even bigger first innings lead but the 9th wicket partnership gave South Africa some breathing space.
India are still in the driver’s seat in Pune but the Philander-Maharaj show should give South Africa plenty of confidence and the belief that they can fight and survive on this pitch even against a top-quality Indian bowling attack.