Going into Day 2, India would have envisaged having to bat again, you know, sometime late in the day, maybe the last hour or so of the final session. But, even the spinners â€“ R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra â€“ would not have envisaged bowling so well that South Africa were bundled out inside the first session of Day 2 of this third Test match in Nagpur, a day in which 20 wickets fell in all.
That is precisely what transpired, though, as Ashwin and Jadeja spun a web of ridiculous I-can't-play-these-deliveries to bowl South Africa out for 79 runs in 33.1 overs â€“ the lowest ever total India have managed to bowl a team out for in their history of Test match cricket. That first innings of 215 now looks pretty good for India, with the lead, after the first innings, at 136 runs. India played out the four overs to go into Lunch on 7/0.
The second session saw 101 runs scored by India, but they also lost five wickets, with Imran Tahir, only brought into the attack belatedly, picking up three wickets in four overs. India got that motor running at speed in the final session, scoring a few quick runs to extend the lead past 300. They were finally bowled out for 173, giving South Africa a target of 310 runs to level this Test match series.
With the daunting target hanging over their necks like an albatross, the South Africa openers â€“ Dean Elgar and Stiaan Van Zyl -- actually began well, looking untroubled for 45 balls, but then Ashwin struck again, picking up Van Zyl for the fifth time in this Test series. Van Zyl drove a floated delivery outside off stump, but could not keep it down and Rohit Sharma did the rest at short extra cover.
Imran Tahir was again sent in as the nightwatchman, with a little over six over to go, and again, he failed to watch over the night, as Amit Mishra, with his first ball of the innings, struck him in front.
That means Elgar (10, 42b, 1x4) and Hashim Amla (3, 7b) will again be the overnight batsmen, much like yesterday, with South Africa on 32/2 in 14 overs, needing another 278 for victory.
Murali Vijay went early, edging a full ball from Morne Morkel to Hashim Amla at first slip, before Shikhar Dhawan, still not back to his fluent best, and Cheteshewar Pujara put on 44 runs for the second wicket.
Pujara (31, 45b, 5x4) fell to the expensive JP Duminy, who conceded 24 runs in his two overs after being brought on well before Tahir, with Dhawan (39, 78b, 6x4) then going on to ally for 45 runs with skipper Virat Kohli.
India took over a 100 deliveries to get to their first 50 of the second innings, but the second one came much quicker as Kohli and Dhawan scored runs pretty easily. Something had to change and Amla, finally brought Tahir on in the 25th over, with the score at 82/2, and the leg-spinner proved to his captain that he should have been given a go much earlier, picking up three wickets, albeit all due to poor shots from the India batsmen.
With the lead bulging quite a bit with every run scored, the batsmen became a little too gung-ho, and Dhawan, Kohli (16, 30b, 2x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (9, 13b, 1x4) all fell to the leg-spinner playing expansive shots. However, with India on 108/5 at Tea, the lead is at 244 runs, which, going by the way South Africa batted in the first innings, should be more than enough.
The post-Tea session was all about getting as many runs as possible for India, with all the batsmen that came in going for their shots. Rohit Sharma (23, 39b, 1x4, 1x6) got a few and so did Amit Mishra (14, 18b, 2x4), before Morne Morkel (10-5-19-3) and Tahir (11.3-2-38-5) finished off the innings.
Earlier, Ashwin (16.1-6-32-5) was the main man again, picking up yet another five-for, but Jadeja (12-3-33-4) wasn't too far behind, taking four wickets of his own, while Amit Mishra (3-0-9-1) chipped in with a wicket as well, the important one of JP Duminy (35, 65b, 1x4, 2x6), the only batsman who looked remotely like a batsman in this South Africa innings.
The first over of day two was a sign of things to come. Ashwin beat the bat of Dean Elgar off the first four deliveries of the morning, and then a carom ball that came the other way took the inside edge and cannoned onto the stumps.
South Africa had begun the day on 11/2, and lost Elgar without getting off the mark in the morning, before soon enough, it was a stunning 12/4.
Ashwin picked up the prized wicket of Hashim Amla, whose sweep shot attempt only ended up taking a slice of the back of his bat and looping up to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip. Then came the most important wicket of them all. Ravindra Jadeja was unlucky a few times in the previous matches to not pick up De Villiers, but this time the left-armer would not be denied as the great man misjudged the pace and bounce of the delivery to give a leading edge back to the bowler.
Nothing can give a team more of a lift than getting De Villiers out for a duck, but Duminy and Faf Du Plessis brought a semblance of sanity to the proceedings by putting on 23 runs together, before insanity creeped in again as Du Plessis played a pathetic shot.
Just when some kind of momentum was building for South Africa, with both batsmen looking settled â€“ or at least as settled as you can look on this wicket â€“ Du Plessis decided to go for a lofted drive over the offside and Jadeja snuck the ball through bat and pad to knock over the woodwork.
Duminy was the only one who looked capable of staying for a while, and even the left-hander was lucky to survive with Virat Kohli, who should never be in the slips, dropping a simple catch. The left-hander, though, stuck to his task, and with a little help from Simon Harmer the score chugged along closer to 100.
It was just a matter of time, though, before the wickets came tumbling down again, and so it did, as South Africa's torrid time with the bat in India hit another low.