Rabada removes Rohit in testing morning



India 76 for 4 (Pujara 26*, Ashwin 12*, Philander 1-14, Rabada 1-15) trail South Africa 286 by 210 runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details (Viewers in the Indian subcontinent can watch highlights of the Test here)

“His veins were about to pop as he celebrated.” Normally the bowler who draws that statement is Dale Steyn. And while he has started to look every bit South Africa’s bowling leader, it was his protege who won the first mention of it in the Newlands Test. Kagiso Rabada and his sheer pace upset India’s discipline on the second morning of a match that is beyond compelling. His third ball of the day was clocked at 146 kph. It beat the splice of the bat on its way to the wicketkeeper. In light of that, there may be sense in playing him off the back foot. But, he is just as adept as pitching the ball up, and has sensational speed through the air. Rohit Sharma found that out the hard way when he was late to bring the bat down and was out lbw in the 18th over of the morning.

In the time, India had made 29 runs with great difficulty. And that may well be the difference between the two sides. Vernon Philander began the day with five successive maidens. Steyn came ambling in and delivered outswingers in the corridor just as effortlessly as he did bouncers at the head. Morne Morkel seems to be pushing through his action better; the snap of his wrist has been more palpable and those awkward rising deliveries have come with greater frequency.

Considering all that, Cheteshwar Pujara did beautifully to last the session. Eighteen of his 26 runs have come behind square on the leg side, indicating he has been on the lookout for anything on the pads. He didn’t care to press too far forward. He barely put any force behind his shots. And he wouldn’t go near a ball outside the off stump with a ten foot pole. In 91 balls, he scored two runs through the covers, intending for them to go where they did, and four to third man, off an outside edge. While he trotted across for a single, he got an earful. “You hit that so hard, and it didn’t even go off the square.” It had all the hallmarks of a Steyn sledge – the man did memorably respond to Rohit’s call of “come to India, let’s see what happens” with “I have more runs than you do this series.” the last time India were in this country. But on this fine Saturday morning, it came from Rabada. And that wasn’t the only point of similarity between master and protege.

Rabada was disgruntled that he was used for only seven overs. He indulged in angry screams after taking a wicket. He made batsmen hop. He greeted their premier spinner R Ashwin with a short ball aimed at the heart. All of this took place on a pitch that offered considerably lesser lateral movement. India made only 48 runs in 25 overs, hoping for the trend to continue so that they may have wickets in hand to capitalise as the bowlers tired. Rohit was very good, getting in line with the ball, using soft hands when it climbed on him and muting all of his attacking instincts. His first boundary took 53 balls coming. But the advantage of having four quicks, each different from the other and all of them capable of bowling one side of the wicket, meant that all South Africa needed was one strike to get back on top.

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