India 209 and 0 for 0 need 208 to beat South Africa 286 and 130 (Shami 3-28, Bumrah 3-39)
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details (Viewers in the Indian subcontinent can watch highlights of the Test here)
Like a heavy metal song that begins in the guise of a gentle melody, India simply blew people away. Eight wickets for only 65 runs has given them a decent chance of winning the Newlands Test. Their target is 208.
Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were in charge of the entertainment. And their success was in no small part down to a stage that appeared tailor-made for them. A surface that made good-length deliveries behave like bouncers.
The most vicious one was reserved for the opposition captain. Faf du Plessis did not do much wrong in deciding to press forward to a delivery that under normal circumstances would have come up about waist-high. But in Cape Town, the day after the pitch spent slumbering under the covers amid several hours of rain, something crazy happened. The ball banged into the deck, it trampolined up to take the top glove even as the batsman recoiled from the line of fire, and settled in the wicketkeeper’s waiting gloves.
Wriddhiman Saha was the busiest man in the morning and after his work in the field was done he had a shiny new record against his name: the most catches taken by an Indian in a Test match. That he received so many chances was also a testament to the discipline of India’s bowlers.
Shami was excellent, maintaining a nagging line outside off and finding movement off the seam; often times it was in the direction of the shine. He bagged Hashim Amla in his first over of the day, caught at gully, a decision the third umpire struggled to adjudicate because the on-field soft signal was out and replays were terribly blurry. Bumrah’s improvement, meanwhile, was on two fronts: bowling one side of the wicket and exploring a fuller length. Both men hit the deck hard and India were good enough to realise that was what was needed here.
While the rest of the South African line-up came away grumbling, AB de Villiers was unperturbed. He had so much time to get in position even against awkwardly-rising deliveries. So what chance did bad balls have? Even the marginal ones. He hit a flick through midwicket for four that bowlers might petition to be taken out of the game. As well as de Villiers played, though, he could only influence proceedings from one end. It wasn’t until Keshav Maharaj strode into the middle that he had a partner who could hang around. The eighth wicket put on 27 runs at 5.4 per over, ensuring the lead nudged above 200.
India have won only two Tests in this country in 18 tries. And though 208 appears a target that is imminently gettable, especially with Dale Steyn ruled out from bowling, combating an attack that still has Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander won’t be straightforward. It was those three who pulled off a riveting, come-from-behind victory over Australia in Perth in 2016 on a deck that was a featherbed compared to the one in Cape Town.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.