CENTURION, South Africa (AP) — India lost and regained control of the first test Tuesday by bouncing back from a batting collapse of seven wickets for 55 runs to bowl South Africa out for 197 on the third day.
That gave Virat Kohli's team a 130-run first-innings lead. It had stretched that to 146 by reaching 16-1 in its second innings at stumps on a day when 18 wickets fell — all to fast bowlers — and no fans were allowed to be there to see it because of COVID-19.
The entire second day of the test was lost to rain but the match had still progressed rapidly at Centurion after an extended third day to make up the time and overs lost to the weather.
At the end of it, India was in position for a series lead that might give the top-ranked test team the impetus for a long-awaited first test series win in South Africa.
Even though India plunged quickly from 272-3 to 327 all out in the morning session at SuperSport Park, it still had enough runs in the bank from its fabulous first-day batting effort to take command.
But India needed its fast bowlers to make sure of that after its first innings was ended abruptly in the first 15.3 overs of the day, with South African quicks Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada combining for six of those seven wickets on Tuesday and nine of the 10 in the innings.
Ngidi finished with 6-71 for his second-best test figures. His best were against India at Centurion in 2018.
Mohammed Shami followed that lead for India, with the seamer stepping up to take 5-44 and reach 200 test wickets. With Shami leading and Shardul Thakur (2-51) supporting, South Africa was dismissed for less than 200 to give India the ascendancy again, and India didn't even feel the temporary loss to injury of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah (2-16).
Bumrah landed awkwardly on his right ankle during a follow-through in only his sixth over and missed much of the second session having treatment in the dressing room. He returned and provided two of the South African wickets and a huge sigh of relief for the India team for the rest of the three-test series.
There was no starring role for any batter Tuesday. India opener KL Rahul was 122 not out from the first day but added just one run to that score when he edged behind trying to hook to start the Indian collapse.
For South Africa, Temba Bavuma ground his way to 52 but was one of Shami's five victims when he edged through to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant. Shami began by muscling deliveries through the defenses of Keegan Petersen and Aiden Markram to bowl them and completed his five-for by getting Rabada caught behind for 25.
The depth and quality of India's fast-bowling attack — which hasn't always been the case — may be the defining factor in finally cracking South Africa.
Thakur underlined that by playing a crucial support role with his two wickets. He forced Quinton de Kock to play on for 34 to break a 72-run partnership with Bavuma and send back South Africa's most dangerous player.
Thakur also broke the next-best partnership by dismissing debutant Marco Jansen lbw for 19.
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