CENTURION, South Africa (AP) Aiden Markram made 94 and South Africa cashed in after winning the toss to progress to 182-2 against India at tea on the first day of the second test on Saturday.
Markram fell just short of a century on his home ground, but South Africa was building partnerships and in control at the break on a surprisingly tame pitch at SuperSport Park.
South Africa already leads the three-test series against top-ranked India 1-0 after winning in Cape Town last week.
Markram put on 85 for the first wicket with Dean Elgar (31) and 63 for the second with Hashim Amla (35 not out). Amla and AB de Villiers (16 not out) added another 34 in their unbroken stand before the break, setting South Africa up for a big total.
The positive for India was the turn produced by offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was into the attack as early as the 20th over and collected both South African wickets. The tourists’ seamers, meanwhile, got little out of a Centurion strip that was expected to be quick and bouncy but didn’t live up to those pre-match predictions.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said it was an easy call to bat first when he won the toss.
Markram pounced on anything loose by the seamers to hit nine fours and move to 51 not out by lunch. He hit 15 boundaries in all before getting a thin edge behind to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel off Ashwin as a test century on the ground where he grew up watching cricket beckoned.
Markram already has two test centuries and two half-centuries in his first five tests. He’s been out in the 90s twice now in his first seven test innings.
Ashwin had troubled the left-handed Elgar in the first session and had a close call for caught behind turned down shortly before lunch. India captain Virat Kohli reviewed the not out decision, apparently certain that it was the breakthrough. The DRS showed Elgar clipped his front pad with his bat but there was no edge.
Ashwin did get Elgar and the first breakthrough soon after lunch, though, with the opener thudding a drive into the body of close fielder Murali Vijay, who reacted quick enough to hold onto the catch.
Ashwin nearly had another wicket when Amla lofted a drive and Hardik Pandya dived but couldn’t quite reach a catch at short midwicket. Amla was also dropped on 30 by wicketkeeper Patel off seamer Ishant Sharma.
India made three changes to its lineup for Centurion after falling behind in the series against its closest challenger at the top of the test rankings. Those changes included surprisingly dropping seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was one of India’s best players in the first test. India brought in Sharma for Kumar and also opening batsman KL Rahul for Shikhar Dhawan, and Patel for injured wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
South Africa gave a test debut to fast bowler Lungi Ngidi, who replaced injured quick Dale Steyn.
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