Indian off-spinner R Ashwin snared a couple of early wickets, including the ever-dangerous A B de Villiers, but South Africa finally showed some defiance with the bat to be placed 105/4 at lunch on the third day of the third cricket Test in Nagpur on Friday.
Chasing a formidable victory target of 310 to stay alive in the series, the visitors had slumped to 58 for four, losing two second innings wickets this morning, before they fought back. At the break, the Proteas needed 205 more runs to win with six wickets in hand to level the series 1-1.
Skipper Hashim Amla (28 off 93 balls) and Faf du Plessis (22 in 66 balls) are holding fort for the side. Amla and no 6 batsman du Plessis, both of who have had horror runs in the series so far, were involved in a defiant fifth-wicket stand of 47 runs in 131 balls on a track that is loaded in favour of spin bowling.
Ashwin was the lone Indian bowler to taste success in the morning by accounting for the two wickets to fall — Dean Elgar (18) and de Villiers (9). The tall bowler’s first spell of the day was an impressive 5-0-15-2 for an overall innings figures of 3 for 35.
In fact even Amla and du Plessis could have been back in the pavillion had it not been the ‘lives’ they got because of the home fielders. The duo then took the team to lunch without being separated with du Plessis even hitting a six off Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin.
South Africa had commenced the day at 32 for 2, needing 278 more runs on the difficult spin-aiding pitch with opener Dean Elgar and skipper Amla at the crease. Knowing the task was formidable, caution was the watch-word adopted against Ishant Sharma and Ashwin. Things were quiet for the first three overs before Elgar, given a juicy half volley on middle stump, slog-swept Ashwin over the mid wicket fence for a six.