Day 3 of a Test match is generally considered as the moving day, but this match has already moved at a rapid pace after 22 wickets fell in the first two days. With a further 10 wickets on Day 3, the match is now in balance, with South Africa needing 122 runs to win, whereas India need just eight wickets to complete a historic series win.
The day started with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane taking on South Africa, scoring 66 runs in the first hour at 4.71 runs per over. The South African bowlers were not disciplined in their efforts, bowling too full and often straying down on the pads of both the batters.
With both Pujara and Rahane coming into this innings with a sword hanging on their heads due to an extended period of bad form, the veteran duo put on a show, scoring fine half-centuries filled with attractive stroke play. The pair put up 111 runs off just 144 balls. This was also their highest partnership outside Asia.
Right after the Drinks break, Kagiso Rabada struck by edging Rahane off an unplayable delivery. The cracks in the Johannesburg pitch came to play as Rabada utilized the deviations in the surface to pick up crucial wickets. After the first hour, India looked like running away with the game but Rabada produced a fiery spell post Drinks, removing both the set batters in Rahane and Pujara and then nicking off an unsettled Rishabh Pant in three consecutive overs.
Hanuma Vihari, along with the hero of the first innings, Shardul Thakur, counterattacked to regain the lost momentum. Thakur was especially audacious in his stroke play, scoring an enterprising knock of 28 balls of just 24 balls. Thakur was holed out off Jansen, but not before taking him apart for 15 runs off his over. Vihari then held his fort and remained unbeaten on 40.
On a tricky Wanderers’ pitch with uneven bounce and extravagant deviation, a target of 240 was going to be a daunting task for the home side, but they got off to a great start, with Aiden Markram providing them a quick start. Markram eventually departed for a quickfire 31 off 38 balls to Thakur, who picked up his eighth wicket of the match.
But it was their captain Dean Elgar, who was at his resolute best. Despite the pitch providing great help to the bowlers with its unpredictable nature, Elgar had a control percentage of 87% for his 121 balls. Combining with Keegan Petersen, and then van der Dussen, the South African captain is not out on 46.
India will need early wickets on Day 4 to control the game and pull it back, but South Africa will be a happier side at the end of Day 3’s play as they now need only 122 runs to pull off an incredible win.