AB DE VILLIERS seized the moment on day one of the first Sunfoil Test match at PPC Newlands when he carved Bhuvneshwar Kumar for four boundaries in his fifth over at a stage when the seamer was threatening to run through the Standard Bank Proteas top-order.
On day two it was the turn of Hardik Pandya to do something similar when he launched a brilliant counter-attack starting with the three boundaries he took from an over from Vernon Philander whom most of his batting colleagues had found almost unplayable.
Before that calculated assault Philander had taken 2/6 in the 10 overs he had sent down on the day and with India crumbling to 92/7 the Proteas must have been anticipating a first innings lead of at least 150.
But Pandya brought some much needed aggression to India’s batting and seemed certain to score his second Test century once again with a strike rate in excess of 100 percent. He found a willing partner in Kumar who hung around during a 99-run partnership for the eighth wicket and eventually Pandya fell to the well deserving Kagiso Rabada for 93 (95 balls, 14 fours and a six).
It was the classic No. 6 all-rounder’s innings that one might expect from Kapil Dev or Ian Botham and whatever India get out of this match they will surely acknowledge the need to bat their all-rounder at No. 6.
He is no stranger to this counter-attacking role. In his debut Test series in Sri Lanka he came in at No. 8 and went on to make both his maiden Test century (108 off 96 balls). This included a 66-run partnership for the last wicket with Umesh Yadav whose contribution was just three runs.
He was on hand to seize the moment once again when the Proteas batted again, claiming the wickets of both opening batsmen at a stage when the match was starting to run away from them very rapidly. Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar were able to share their 2nd 50 partnership to go with their 2 century partnerships in the six innings they have had together at the top of the order.
The Proteas held an overwhelmingly strong position at the close of play, having converted the first innings lead of 77 into an overall lead of 142 with 8 wickets still in hand.
They lost the bowling services of Dale Steyn with an apparent heel injury just before the tea interval in the only real setback but they will take a lot of heart from the pace and aggression with which Rabada bowled throughout the Indian innings and they still have four specialist bowlers at their disposal.
The Sunfoil Education Trust (SET) has benefited to the tune of R142 000 over the first two days.