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India take full control of first Test

Published: Saturday | December 21, 2013 Comments 0
India's batsman Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his century.  - AP
India's batsman Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his century. - AP


India took complete charge of the opening Test against South Africa yesterday by bullying the top-ranked team's diminished pace attack for a 320-run lead at stumps on the third day.

India were utterly dominant at 284-2 at the close after South Africa, already struggling and behind, lost fast bowler Morne Morkel to an ankle injury early in the Indians' second innings at the Wanderers.

At the end, Cheteshwar Pujara was unbeaten on 135 and first-innings century-maker Virat Kohli 77 not out to give India a convincing advantage with two days to play. South Africa were bowled out for 244 in its first innings to start the surprisingly one-sided dominance by the tourists.

Pujara and Kohli added 175 runs off 38 overs in the final session to underline India's superb day.

"When they were going quite well, the atmosphere (in the dressing room) was quite relaxing," India bowler Ishant Sharma said. "It's nice to see the batsmen making runs in South Africa."

In the field, South Africa were desperate and at one point, wicketkeeper AB de Villiers bowled an over and batsman Hashim Amla stood in for him behind the stumps.

"We're just trying to just get over today," all-rounder Vernon Philander said. "Obviously, the guys are quite down, to be quite honest with you. Having lost Morne as well makes a big difference in our bowling unit."

With a 36-run first-innings advantage, India forged much further ahead with Pujara's century, his sixth in just 16 Tests. His 70-run partnership with Murali Vijay and unbroken stand of 191 with Kohli also finally put clear daylight between the world's two best teams after both collapsed in the first innings in Johannesburg.

While No. 2 India can't overtake South Africa in the rankings over the brief two-Test contest, it can lay down a marker by ending the Proteas' 13-series unbeaten run stretching back to 2009, and the Indians already probably have enough runs and only need to give themselves enough time to bowl out the South Africans to take the opener.

"It all depends on the time now," bowler Sharma said. "I don't think the runs matter."

With Pujara unbeaten and Kohli looking in especially ominous form, India were also aiming to continue their dominance through today as the South African attack, exacerbated by Morkel's absence, looked suddenly tamer than it has in years on a track made for the pacemen.

"Hopefully, tomorrow morning, we can strike early and push them off their plans a little bit," Philander said. "(But) I'm not going to shy away from the fact that we'd welcome rain."

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