South Africa face huge chase

Published: Sunday | December 22, 2013 Comments 0
South Africa's batsman Hashim Amla is bowled after being hit on his chest by a ball from India's bowler Mohammad Shami.-AP
South Africa's batsman Hashim Amla is bowled after being hit on his chest by a ball from India's bowler Mohammad Shami.-AP

JOHANNESBURG (AP):India's Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli constructed a mammoth 222-run partnership and South Africa were 138-2 at stumps yesterday, chasing a record-shattering 458 on the final day to win the first Test at the Wanderers.

Having been outplayed for almost all of the match, the No. 1-ranked South Africans need another 320 runs to win, or more likely must bat out the last three sessions for a draw to keep the short two-Test series between Test cricket's top teams level heading to Durban.

Pujara made 153 and shared the punishing double-century partnership for the third wicket with Kohli (96) in No. 2-ranked India's second-innings total of 421. The pair completely subdued a South African attack missing injured fast bowler Morne Morkel.

Even without Morkel, South Africa still had premier fast bowler Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, yet Pujara and Kohli dominated on a track made for South Africa's quicks. The surface is now cracking up through wear and likely to favour India's pacemen on the last day.

"We are expecting we will get more momentum tomorrow from the ball when it hits the cracks," Pujara said. "Even when I was batting I felt the odd ball was going up and down."

After the dominance from Pujara and Kohli on Friday, tailender Zaheer Khan clubbed 29 not out early yesterday with two brutish sixes over extra cover at the back end of India's innings to rub salt in the South African bowlers' tender wounds.

Facing a world-record run chase, South Africa lost captain Graeme Smith to a run out for 44 and Hashim Amla for four to a bizarre dismissal when he tried to duck and was bowled by Mohammed Shami, a delivery that showed the unpredictable bounce. Alviro Petersen was 76 not out.

two late strikes

India's two late strikes after South African openers Smith and Petersen built a 108-run opening stand in the final innings ensured the visitors were still dominant as the Test goes into the last day. The highest fourth-innings total at the Johannesburg ground is 351 and the Proteas must make over 100 more runs than that to win. The highest successful fourth-innings runs chase in Tests anywhere is 418, still 50 short of what South Africa need.

"I think we are really happy with the way we got two wickets," Pujara said. "Conditions will be a little more difficult tomorrow. We have got enough runs on the board. I don't think it will be an issue for us."

Even a draw is a tough task for the South Africans.

"It would be a remarkable thing to bat through tomorrow, but we know we can do it," South Africa assistant coach Adrian Burrell said.

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