Recent Match Report – South Africa vs India 2nd Test 2023/24

South Africa 62 for 3 (Markram 36*, Mukesh 2-25) and 55 (Verreynne 15, Siraj 6-15, Mukesh 2-0) trail India 153 (Kohli 46, Rohit 39, Ngidi 3-30) by 36 runs

As many as 23 wickets tumbled on a chaotic opening day in Cape Town, including a never-before-seen collapse of 6 for 0. It was the first time in 2522 Tests that a team had lost six wickets for no runs. India claimed that unwanted record when they went from 153 for 4 to 153 all out in 11 balls, in response to South Africa’s 55 all out, in the afternoon session.

Despite that collapse, India were still in front on a Newlands pitch that provided excessive seam movement and variable bounce throughout the day. With even the old(ish) ball misbehaving off the surface, the batters found it fiendishly difficult to bat, especially when the bowlers forced them to play a shot. Only once has more wickets fallen in a day in Test cricket in this century.

It was that kind of a day in Cape Town.

Dean Elgar became the just second player after Australia’s Jack Barrett to be dismissed twice on the same day of his last Test. Barrett’s last Test was in 1890.

After opting to bat, Elgar was bowled by Mohammed Siraj off an inside edge for 4 in the first innings, where South Africa folded in 23.2 overs. Siraj’s new-ball spell of 9-3-15-6 skittled South Africa for 55 – the lowest total against India in Test cricket – in a session. India then needed less than ten overs to take the lead, with Rohit Sharma motoring along at better than a run-a-ball during those early exchanges. However, the late collapse, triggered by Lungi Ngidi’s triple-strike, brought South Africa back into the game.

Aiden Markram, who was the first batter to be dismissed on the day, then somehow survived 51 balls in South Africa’s second innings to bring his team even closer to parity. India, though, still have a substantial lead of 36, which appears even bigger on this surface.

South Africa were not in control of only 55 of the shots they played in their first innings. They got bowled out for 55. That means one in five mistakes cost the ultimate price.

India were the same. They were not in control of 50 of the shots they played. A ratio of one in five again. In all, there were only seven double-digit scores across three innings. If this match ends in less than 34.1 overs on Thursday, it will be the shortest Test ever.

It was Siraj who had started the mayhem on Wednesday when he hit the perfect length and the outside edges. Siraj’s new-ball spell in Centurion was just as incisive, but luck – and the wickets – didn’t go his way in the first Test. However, it would be a discredit to Siraj’s skills to say it was only good fortune in Cape Town.

While Siraj probed away around off stump – or outside off – against the right-handers, he snaffled Elgar and Tony de Zorzi with a middle-and-leg line, with a deepish short leg and leg slip in place. After bringing the stumps – and the close-in catchers in play – he hung one up outside off. Elgar took the bait and threw his hands at the ball only to chop it back onto his own stumps. After having de Zorzi flaccidly fend to short leg, Siraj had him caught down the leg side by KL Rahul.

But it was the dismissal of David Bedingham that created a stir in Cape Town. When Siraj put one on a length and outside off, it reared up viciously into Bedingham’s glove and ballooned to third slip. Mukesh Kumar, who was picked in place of Shardul Thakur, came into the attack in the 20th over and took care of the tail.

Rohit then came out attacking against Ngidi and Nandre Burger who weren’t as accurate as Kagiso Rabada with the new ball. In his first spell, Ngidi bowled like… someone who was playing his first first-class match in over a year and kept offering up floaty half-volleys. Burger also erred too full before he pulled his length back and hit the shoulder of Rohit’s bat. Burger also got rid of Shubman Gill (36) and Shreyas Iyer (0) for a duck to leave India at 110 for 4.

Virat Kohli, though, looked comfortable in the middle and continued to play his shots, especially the drives. Ngidi then returned to the attack and bowled at full tilt, running in hard and hitting the deck even harder. In the 34th over, he bounced out all of Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah, who slotted in at No.8, in the absence of Thakur. The big seam movement and variable bounce was just too much to handle. Kohli himself was part of that 6 for 0 collapse.

But India’s batters had done enough to pull their team ahead on a manic day.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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