Late strikes make it an even day

It was supposed to be a bouncy pitch full of pace.

When that spinner is Ravichandran Ashwin, whose last Test in these parts ended in self-doubt and being dropped, it is a case of cricket going full circle.

South Africa lost three wickets for five runs late on Saturday to allow India back into the second Test match at Centurion.

It's understandable that some would fall into that trap given South Africa's expectation of bowler-friendly wickets.

South Africa's Dean Elgar, plays a shot during the first day of the second cricket test match between South Africa and India at Centurion Park in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. In between, Quinton de Kock had lasted two balls, beaten by the spin of Ashwin and the resultant edge was easily gobbled up by Virat Kohli at first slip.

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Du Plessis finished on 25 off 77 balls, which included three boundaries, while Maharaj remained undefeated on 10 off 23 deliveries, which included two boundaries.

The Indian bowlers toiled manfully on a very hot day, with du Plessis having won the toss and opted to make first use of a track that had grown browner in the days leading up to the Test, and belied the assertions of not having much turn, as well as having plenty of bounce.

Fast bowlers have been the leading wicket takers in Test matches for India outside the subcontinent, and their share of wickets has been the highest in the current decade.

Markram (94) and Amla (82) had helped the hosts to 246-3 before two run outs - one brilliant, one kamikaze - contributed to the hosts closing on 269-6 at SuperSport Park. Amla, who survived a scratchy period initially, shook off the blues to find his touch and stroke the ball regally while making 82. Two more wickets fell in the next 14 balls. KL Rahul, Ishant Sharma and Parthiv Patel replaced Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Wriddhiman Saha.

The world number one Test side will look to win this match if they want to become the first side in history to get to ten Test series win in a row with a victory over South Africa. He sent back Elgar to the pavilion.

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The openers were unseparated at lunch, but shortly after, Ashwin finally broke through Elgar's stubbornness, with the opener stepping out and pushing at the ball that Vijay latched on to, close in. With Amla set by then and AB de Villiers walking out, there was still no respite for the Indians, and a tea-time score of 182 for 2 in 56 overs spoke of how dominant South Africa had been.

A diving Parthiv was unable to hold on down the leg side after Amla edged a delivery from Ishant, who was rewarded for his endeavour by removing De Villiers, the former skipper chopping on for 20 after tea.

The tone for a sensational Indian comeback, after the entire third day was washed out, was set early on Monday.

Dean Elgar (31) was Ashwin's other victim, while impressive seamer Ishant Sharma (1-32) induced an edge from the unsafe AB de Villiers (20) onto his own wicket.

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