First India-South Africa Test nicely poised (Roundup)

Johannesburg, Dec 19: South Africa were 67 runs behind India’s 280 and had four wickets in hand after a topsy turvy day two of the first Test at the Wanderers here Thursday.

India snapped up five wickets for 16 runs to leave South Africa reeling at 148 for six before Vernon Philander (48 not out) and Faf du Plessis (17 not out) steadied the ship with a 67-run stand, shepherding their team to 213 for six in 66 overs.

Ishant Sharma returned to form, taking three important wickets for 64 runs.

India, who resumed the day 255 for five, lost their last five wickets for 25 runs to end at 280 all out an hour before the lunch break.

The visitors made up for their batting collapse with a spirited bowling effort which was at times let down by sloppy fielding.

India could have seen the back of du Plessis minutes before stumps but Rohit Sharma dropped a regulation catch at second slip off Mohammed Shami (2/48).

It was the second missed opportunity of the day after Ravichandran Ashwin dropped Graeme Smith (68) when the South African skipper was on 19.

The Proteas had things under control going into tea at 118 for one and 162 behind the opposition.

The momentum shifted dramatically towards India after Ishant bowled Hashim Amla (36), who misjudged the line of an incoming delivery and did not offer a shot.

The lanky pacer had Jacques Kallis trapped in front of the stumps the very next ball. It was a welcome sight to see Ishant cranking up good pace and hitting the right areas on a helping surface.

The Delhi player was all pumped for the occasion and was warned twice by the umpire for running on the pitch.

Both Ishant and comeback man Zaheer Khan (1/72) bowled well in tandem.

Zaheer, playing his first international game in a year, tasted success by getting rid of his nemesis, none other than Smith, for the 14th time in all formats. The experienced pacer would have had Smith earlier had Ashwin taken the catch.

South Africa now were 130 for four and it was turn of Mohammed Shami to come to the party. The Bengal pacer was rewarded for hitting the deck hard, dismissing the dangerous Ab de Villers (13) and J.P. Duminy (2).

South Africa needed some runs from 146 for six and they were provided by Philander and du Plessis.

Philander, who triggered the Indian batting collapse in the morning with a three wicket burst, showed he was no mug with the bat.

He frustrated the tired looking bowlers, not afraid to put the loose balls away. Du Plessis was happy to play second fiddle.

IANS