CAPE TOWN: Hardik Pandya served up a swashbuckling counterattack after India’s top order failed, with the allrounder taking on South Africa’s fast bowlers to hit 81 not out and lead his team to 185-7 in the first test on Saturday.
That Indian total at tea on Day 2 was still 101 runs behind South Africa’s first innings of 286, but India was in a much worse position at 76-5 when Pandya arrived, second ball after lunch, and then 92-7 soon after that.
Facing the Proteas’ four-pronged pace attack, Pandya responded with a free-hitting innings, striking 13 fours and a six and forcing the home team to finally divert from its all-pace attack and call spinner Keshav Maharaj into the attack.
Pandya rode his luck against both pace and Maharaj’s spin as he carried India out of immediate trouble in the series opener. He was dropped in the gully off Dale Steyn when he was on 15 and survived a missed stumping chance off Maharaj when on 71.
At tea, the partnership between Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (24 not out) was worth 93 off 130 balls. The other seven Indian batsmen could muster just 92 off 250 balls between them.
Pandya is playing just his fourth test and his potential was already clear with a century and half-century in his first series in Sri Lanka last year.
Before his adventurous innings in Cape Town, India struggled against South Africa’s unrelenting pace attack to add just 48 runs in the first session and go to lunch on 76-4.
Rohit Sharma was out lbw to Kagiso Rabada for 11 for the first wicket of the day and Cheteshwar Pujara went for 26 first ball after lunch.
India was completely pinned down by South African quicks Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander in that first session. Philander had 3-33, Steyn 2-51 on his return to test cricket, and Morkel and Rabada one wicket each.— AP