Here are our talking points from the first two days of the 2nd test between India and South Africa at the MCA Stadium in Pune.
Faf’s toss Woes continue
Given his side’s struggles in Vizag, Faf du Plessis would have been desperate to win the toss in Pune. Unfortunately, The Proteas skipper called incorrectly- making it the 9th consecutive time in Asia that he has lost the toss. Batting first is a massive advantage in these conditions and India’s batsman again made merry, grinding South Africa to dust over two days in the hot Pune sun as they amassed over 600 runs.
More records for King Kohli
Indian skipper Virat Kohli made his seventh double century here, thus breaking the record for the most double centuries by an Indian (6 by Sachin Tendulkar & Virender Sehwag). Kohli also crossed the 7000 run landmark in tests, became the first Indian to hit double centuries against six different nations and also registered his highest individual score in the longest format of the game.
To his credit, Kohli also put the Indian team’s interest above his own. Such was his mastery that he could have easily hit a triple century had he batted for another hour or so. However he sensed that South Africa’s batsman were vulnerable and there for the taking after having spent two long days in the field and chose to declare instead. His bowlers reciprocated the faith and took out three of the Proteas’ top four, leaving the visitors in all kinds of trouble at the end of Day 2.
South Africa’s spinners struggle
The only previous test at this venue had seen Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon shine for Australia. Unfortunately for the Proteas, their spinners came a cropper- Keshav Maharaj would have gone for over 200 runs but for a shoulder injury that forced him off the field and Senuran Muthusamy was again expensive. The latter got the wicket of Kohli but was found to have overstepped- an absolutely criminal mistake for a spinner at this level.
Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma again fail to deliver.
Markram’s struggles in the sub-continent continued as he fell for a two ball duck, trapped leg before wicket by the returning Umesh Yadav.
Bavuma was only able to make 8 before edging a Shami delivery to Wriddhiman Saha. The South African selectors have given the duo a long rope, but repeated failures like these may prompt them to wield the axe soon.
Back to back centuries from Mayank Agarwal
Runs from openers are vital to a team’s success in this format- ask South Africa whose openers have struggled in recent years. Agarwal made a double century in Vizag and followed it up with a century here. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Karnataka star- he was hit on the helmet by a fiery Anrich Nortje delivery early in his innings, but however hung in and laid a solid foundation that India’s middle order were able to capitalize on.
South Africa’s batsmen have found the step up to international cricket difficult but there have been no such issues for Ranji veteran Agarwal, who’s taken to it like a duck to water.