If India had plans of getting off to a strong start and plundering runs to bulge that lead to a massive one, Morne Morkel was clearly not having any of it, with the South Africa fast bowler producing a brilliant couple of spells of bowling on Day 3 of the fourth Test match at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Saturday.
It was a strange day of play at the Kotla, with neither team really taking charge and showing a statement of intent. India were just happy to bat, without worrying too much about the scoring rate, while South Africa, apart from Morkel, were just waiting for the declaration.
In the morning, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan would have walked in expecting to score a few runs, considering the pressure was off with India taking a 213-run first innings lead.
However, a tight beginning from the South Africa opening bowlers – Morkel (14-5-22-3) and Kyle Abbott – was followed by a twin strike from the former, putting India on the back foot as a result.
India went into Lunch on 51/2 in 26 overs with Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease, before the duo fell early in the second session, leaving skipper Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, the only centurion of the series so far, to take their team to 116/4 in 54 overs.
No wickets fell in the final session, but again, not too many runs flowed either as India finished Day 3 on 190/4 in 81 overs for an overall lead of 403 with Kohli (83, 154b, 10x4) and Rahane (52, 152b, 5x4) unbeaten at the crease, having put on an unconquered 133 runs, by far the biggest partnership of the Freedom Test series.
Morkel picked up Vijay with a ripper of a short delivery, which reared up into the batsman's body. All Vijay could do was fend at it, with the ball then taken brilliantly jumping up by wicketkeeper Dane Vilas.
Umpire Kumar Dharmasena adjudged the ball came off the glove and raised his finger, but Vijay (3, 15b) wasn't happy, pointing immediately to his elbow guard, with replays showing clearly the batsman was right. Vijay's reaction to the decision, though, is likely to get him under hot water with the match referee.
Morkel then picked up a wicket off his next ball, the first of his next over, as the send-Rohit-Sharma-at-No.3 experiment failed miserably. It was the kind of delivery any batsman would have struggled t negotiate, with the ball pitching and holding its line to take off-stump, but Rohit (0, 1b) will also know he should have been a lot more forward, which would have probably saved him from the dreaded golden duck.
It was a battle of attrition for Dhawan and Pujara from there, as runs proved to be difficult to come by. It continued in that same vein in the second session as well, with Dhawan and Pujara falling early.
Dhawan (21, 86b, 2x4) was cleaned up by an absolute ripper of a yorker from Morkel – the perfect ball that pitched near the batsman's toes before going onto clip the outside of leg-stump.
Imran Tahir then clean bowled Pujara (28, 79b, 3x4) after the right-hander failed to pick up the leg-spinner's quick flipper.
Kohli and Rahane, who put on 70 together in the first innings, then ensured no more wickets would fall going into Tea, even if the batsmen had to weather a couple of storms, particularly another brilliant spell from Morkel towards the end of the session.
Kohli eased to his half-century in the last session f the day, with the skipper the only batsmen who looked capable of scoring runs at will on this slow pitch. However, even Kohli slowed down as the day wound down, with Rahane, at the other end, least bothered about scoring runs, as India had obviously decided not to declare and give South Africa a late bat out in the middle.
Watch all the highlights of 4th Test Day 3 HERE