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Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara need to go De Villiers-Du Plessis way to help hosts recover

Newlands: South Africa suffered a bumpy ride on Day One, as South African captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat in the first test against India at Newlands on Friday in a clash between the top two ranked test nations. Africa did well to fight back and share honours with India in first Test at Newlands, Cape Town. They were bundled out for 286 but bounced back to reduce India 28/3 on day 2. They struggled to pick Bhuvneshwar who mixed his inswingers and outswingers well. However, the defining moment of the day came when AB de Villiers went on the counter-attack hitting Bhuvneshwar for four fours in an over.

They never got a sustained momentum going. De Kock looked good but couldn't convert it into a big one. In a tricky situation, the lower-order put its hand up and chipped in with crucial contribution. The last four wickets added 84 runs. Vernon Philander (23), Keshav Maharaj (35) and Kagiso Rabada's (26) scores helped South Africa inch closer to 300 mark, which at one point seemed a distant dream.

South Africa made some momentum and came out firing on all cylinders in the final 11 overs of the day.

South Africa are right back into this match sending India's top order back in the hut. The pace battery looks ominous, Rabada is yet to bowl.  With India fielding five specialist batsmen, South Africa would be looking to break the Pujara-Rohit stand as early as possible in the morning session.

India captain Virat Kohli said he would have elected to bowl had he won the toss. "We saw the South Africans warming up with their four seamers, so we wanted to get out on this green wicket and try and make some early inroads into their batting."

India handed a first test cap to bowler Jasprit Bumrah after his good form in recent One day Internationals. They picked three seamers and also have all-rounder Hardik Pandya with a lone specialist spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin.

Kohli's decision would have vindicated as Bhuvneshwar Kumar started off with a bang with three wickets in first five overs. The South African top order was demolished courtesy some brilliant swing bowling. The pacers kept nagging away but under pressure. Just as the pacers were building pressure, AB de Villiers launched a counter-attack, smashing four boundaries in an over off Bhuvneshwar.

India had to see off a tricky period of 11 overs. Vijay was caught driving uppishly while Dhawan went for a pull off Steyn, only top edging it back to the bowler.

India will again look up to Cheteshwar Pujara for providing stability. Rohit Sharma had been in brilliant form in white ball cricket of late is looking to cement his place in the starting eleven and this is his chance to vindicate Kohli's trust in him.  With India playing just five specialist batsmen, they need a big partnership from this duo. South Africa will come hard, and it's not just Rohit and Pujara, the lower-order contribution will also play a crucial role if India are to eye a lead. Another fascinating day's play awaits us.

While Quinton de Kock scored 43, Vernon Philander – dropped by Shikhar Dhawan on 20 – scored 23, KeshavMaharaj hit a useful 35, Kagiso Rabada scored 26 and a new-look Dale Steyn hit 16. His shuffle at the crease wore the resemblance of Australia skipper Steve Smith. Finally it was R Ashwin who dismissed Morne Morkel (2) -- caught plumb in front – for the South African innings to come to an end on 286.
Bhuvneshwar finished with figures of 4/87 (missing out on a well-deserved five-for), Shami had figures of 1/47, Bumrahfinished with 1/73, Pandya had a tally of 1/53 while Ashwinpicked two wickets giving away 21 runs from his 7.1 overs.


South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar. (Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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