Olivier’s six, Hamza’s 93 give South Africa A advantage
South Africa A 219 for 3 (Hamza 93, Erwee 57, Chahal 2-55) trail India A 345 (Vihari 148, Bawne 80, Olivier 6-63) by 126 runs
India A were expected to consolidate their position against South Africa A on Saturday, but their middle and lower order crumbled in the opening hour as the last six wickets fell for only eight runs. The wrecker-in-chief was fast bowler Duanne Olivier, whose five wickets in the space of 18 deliveries bowled the hosts out for 345. India could add only 23 runs to their overnight total of 322 for 4.
South Africa’s batsmen then ensured the initiative gained was capitalised on. Opener Sarel Erwee and No. 3 Zubayr Hamza struck half-centuries in a 154-run second-wicket partnership to deflate India. Only legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal‘s double-strike – on either side of the tea break – removing both set batsmen, injected some life into the home side’s bowling attack. However, by stumps on day two the visitors had moved into a commanding position at 219 for 3, only 126 runs adrift.
Despite the poor start to their morning, India A had an excellent beginning with the ball. Mohammed Siraj, fresh from a ten-wicket haul in the previous match, struck with his opening delivery, trapping the left-handed Pieter Malan lbw. But, Hamza and Erwee took charge thereafter, crunching 22 fours and two sixes in their partnership to help the visitors raze close to half of India A’s first-innings score.
Both batsmen also benefitted from a missed opportunity each. At 56 for 1, offspinner Jayant Yadav beat the outside of the charging Erwee’s bat, but wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat’s fumbled stumping attempt meant that the opener survived. Next ball, Erwee cleared his front leg to thump a boundary over mid-on to further deflate India. In the 17th over, right-arm pacer Ankit Rajpoot found Hamza’s outside edge off a full delivery, but a dropped chance from Hanuma Vihari at second slip allowed the batsman to carry on. He struck two consecutive boundaries later in the over to move on to 45, giving India a glimpse of what can happen when opportunities aren’t taken. Hamza completed his 20th first-class half-century soon after – his third 50-plus score of the tour – reaching there in just 57 balls.
With runs flowing freely post lunch, India’s shoulders began to droop. Captain Shreyas Iyer tried to keep morale up with chants of “Happy Birthday bhai log (brothers)”, “jayega, Raju (He’ll be out, Rajpoot) and Ek lena padega (we need a wicket soon), but it didn’t change the home side’s fortunes. Hamza used his wrists to clip deliveries off his pads to the midwicket boundary, while two back-foot punches and a six over long on took Erwee to a half-century of his own. The duo brought up their 100-run stand with a six and the 150 of the partnership with a boundary. But a quicker Chahal delivery – edged to Iyer at first slip – broke the partnership in the 37th over, just before the tea break. Hamza had fallen just seven short of a century, but between lunch and tea, the batsmen had pummelled 118 runs in 28 overs for the loss of just one wicket.
Chahal continued his spell after tea, and a lapse in Erwee’s concentration – and, perhaps a slice of bad luck – sent the opener back for 57. He came forward to sweep, but Chahal bowled another quicker one, which zipped under his bat and struck his front leg. The appeal was swiftly given out, but Erwee’s reaction on his way back suggested that he may have gotten bat to it. At 163 for 3, it was still South Africa’s day, and a patient unbeaten fourth-wicket partnership of 56 between No. 4 Rassie van der Dussen (18*) and No. 5 Rudi Second (35*) – who also made 94 in both innings during the first Test – ensured it stayed that way.
In the morning, though, conditions for batting were not so easy. The KSCA Ground in Alur has no concrete stands or pavilions to block the wind blowing from either side, and that always helps pacers in the morning session. Olivier made the most of those conditions, first forcing Bharat, the overnight batsman, to inside-edge a punch onto his stumps and then removing Jayant with a full ball that rattled his middle stump. Chahal then sliced a drive to second slip to go down as Olivier’s fourth wicket, after which Nos. 10 and 11 were swiftly cleaned up. Olivier finished with his second-best first-class figures of 6 for 63 while Vihari, starting the day on 132, fell for 148 to the only other South African wicket-taker of the day – fast bowler Anrich Nortje.
The day was spent completely under gloomy skies, but despite a continuous drizzle, rain did not force play to be paused. Umpires Yeshwant Barde and Vineet Kulkarni allowed the teams to continue as much as the playing conditions allowed them to, but dwindling natural light finally forced them to suspend play at 3.35pm for a brief period. The players returned soon after, but at 4.05pm – with the older red-ball getting harder to spot against the background – the umpires had to finally call for stumps some 16 overs short of a full day’s play.