SA vs IND | Elgar’s unbeaten ton helps South Africa nose ahead

Bedingham chips in with a half-century as the home team takes a lead of 11 runs with five wickets in hand at close of play; Rahul completes his second hundred in as many Tests at the venue

Updated - December 29, 2023 07:26 am IST

Published - December 28, 2023 04:33 am IST - CENTURION

South Africa’s batsman Dean Elgar plays a shot during the second day of the Test cricket match between South Africa and India.

South Africa’s batsman Dean Elgar plays a shot during the second day of the Test cricket match between South Africa and India. | Photo Credit: AP

The sun barely made an appearance on Wednesday. That didn’t matter: two sparkling hundred lit up the second day of the first Test at the SuperSport Park.

If K.L. Rahul (101, 137b, 14x4, 4x6) helped India post a decent total — it looked more than that in the first half of the day — Dean Elgar (140 batting, 211b, 23x4) ensured South Africa had its nose in front.

The host was 256 for five at stumps, a lead of 11.

Earlier, the players were greeted by the sight of covers on the ground, but cricket got underway with a delay of just 25 minutes. India, which resumed at 208 for eight, needed Rahul to extend his stay at the challenging wicket. He did that in some style.

His partner Mohammed Siraj hung on for a while, a bit like what Pat Cummins has been doing of late. Their ninth-wicket stand was worth 47 when the seamer — his contribution was five runs — was caught behind off Gerald Coetzee.

Rahul now needed some help from his Karnataka teammate and debutant Prasidh Krishna to complete his hundred. He obliged, as the duo took a quick bye, which brought Rahul back on strike against Coetzee.

Off the last ball of the over, he reached his hundred swinging the young quick over mid-wicket for a six. This ground seems to Rahul what Lord’s was to Dilip Vengsarkar; it is his second hundred in as many Tests.

And it ought to be one of the best knocks of his career. On a difficult pitch, in tough conditions, against menacing Kagiso Rabada, backed by three other pacers, and with the Indian innings in bad shape, he played brilliantly.

He defended solidly, picked the right balls to hit, and he hit it with admirable control. Two years ago, his century had come as the opener, and now he is the middle-order batter-wicketkeeper. He is versatile.

Rahul’s flair and fluency was hardly a surprise. But Elgar’s urgency to score and the frequency of fluent drives may have surprised quite a few.

The opener has announced that he would be retiring from international cricket at the end of the series. The way he batted told that there was some cricket still left in him. He should be particularly glad that he could finally score a Test hundred on his home ground.

He wasn’t the only Proteas batter that put on a display of attractive strokeplay. Debutant David Bedingham (56, 87b, 7x4, 2x6) batted beautifully too. He has had to wait for 86 First Class matches before getting this opportunity.

His innings suggested he could have been considered earlier. He looked confident and was at ease, as he and Elgar put on 131 for the fourth wicket.

Siraj had provided an early breakthrough for India, making Aiden Markram edge a delivery that moved away late. Then Jasprit Bumrah had Tony de Zorzi, fresh from his success in the ODI series, caught at slip, and Keegan Petersen playing on. The joy proved short-lived for India.

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