Mohammed Shami was red hot on a sunny day. He was lively, moved the ball and hit the target. He was fast and direct. He went about his business with focus, skill and control against a transitional South African line-up.
What makes Shami dangerous is subtle movement at a telling pace from an off-stump line, just enough to breach the defence or find the edge.
The inspired Shami, with exemplary wrist and seam position, scalped five for 44 as South Africa, replying to India’s 327, was bowled out for 197 on the third day of the first Test.
India was 16 for one in its second innings, Mayank Agarwal nicking debutant left-armer Marco Jansen.
READ: Shami picks up 200 Test wickets with five-for against South Africa
In the morning, Lungi Ngidi showcased his ability with a six-for, as India collapsed from 272 for three. This pitch, as it often happens at Centurion, quickened as the match progressed. There was more bounce, more carry.
Stung by its batting capitulation, India made early inroads. Southpaw Dean Elgar, with limited feet movement, fatally dabbled at a Jasprit Bumrah delivery angling across.
After a couple of lovely drives, Keegan Petersen was done in by a pacey Shami off-cutter. Then, Shami unleashed a beauty, a good length delivery that came back and hit the top of off-stump, to terminate Aiden Markram’s innings.
Already reeling at 30 for three, things became worse for the Proteas.Rassie van der Dussen poking at a Mohammed Siraj away seamer, edged to an alert Ajinkya Rahane in the cordon.
Siraj could have struck with his next delivery – slanting across the left-handed Quinton de Kock – but KL Rahul grassed the catch in the cordon.
READ: IND vs SA: Pant breaks Dhoni’s record, becomes fastest Indian keeper to reach 100 Test dismissals
Amidst the carnage, India suffered a blow when Bumrah left the field with a sprained ankle. The pace ace, however, returned to the arena close to Tea.
Bavuma and de Kock put up some resistance. Bavuma, short and compact, drove with panache in front of the wicket. De Kock is a natural. He picks the length early and can ease the ball through the gaps with a left-hander’s elegance.
However, he can also give his wicket away like he did this time around playing on to a widish delivery from Shardul Thakur.
Bavuma, covering for the swing, kept the fight going, cutting and straight-driving Thakur for boundaries.
He whipped Shami to reach his half-century. Shami though had the last laugh. He seamed the ball ever so slightly away from Bavuma (52) to find the elusive edge.
Earlier, Shami had consumed Wiaan Mulder with a trademark away seamer. Jansen, and Kagiso Rabada battled. Rabada’s straight six of R Ashwin was a telling blow.
Thakur’s delivery, angled in, ended Jansen’s innings. And the versatile Shami, this time seaming the ball away from the left-handed Rabada, got his coveted fifth wicket.
READ: Ashwin among four nominees for ICC Test Cricketer of the year award
In the morning, Lungi Ngidi bowled with rhythm, pace, and lift. His release (front on) was exemplary and he employed his strong shoulder to extract extra bounce.
The rapid fall of wickets underlined the value of Rahul’s hundred. Ngidi and Rabada, lion-heartedly, bowled through the entire first hour. They bowled short, pitched it up and mixed their length cleverly.
Rabada struck early, angling a short-pitched ball across K.L. Rahul’s shoulder and consuming the opener on an attempted hook. Behind Rahul’s 123 of timing and grace, lay resilience and discipline.
Rahane (48), slashing at a delivery of extra bounce from Ngidi, perished. Ashwin succumbed to a leading edge after attempting to work Rabada, and southpaw Pant, trying to fend a Ngidi lifter, was held at short-leg (rightly kept by Elgar).
The Indian innings ended soon and then the visitor hit back.