“Jassi, yeh dekh, yeh dekh yahan pe crack hai!” Virat Kohli was his normal animated self, leaping around, giving suggestions to his pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and generally deluding wild excitement at the chance of having the weapons at his disposal to capitalize on the inconsistencies of the Centurion pitch. Eventually, India’s gripping pace pack did not disappoint. Smelling blood, they locked in for the kill, but the heavy roller cleverly opted for by South Africa, had shortly restrained the demons on the surface. The late afternoon sun and the softer ball blunted India’s charge and snatched the cracks out of play. There’s something to be said, after all, for regional knowledge of conditions. With the flexible bounce somewhat soothed, South Africa’s captain Dean Elgar (batting 52; 122b; 7×4) fiddled a courageous hand and Rassie van der Dussen hung in there by the skin of his teeth in the previous session on Wednesday. They battled tooth and nail, thrusting and parrying, getting right behind the line of the ball to keep disaster at bay.
As the tension built, it was up to Bumrah to work his charm again and smash the stubborn stand. Displacing Ashwin in the 37th over, he used the width of the crease and got one to cut back in miles from the back of a length. Van der Dussen, perplexed, could only shoulder arms. That one wicket swiveled the momentum back India’s way and Bumrah, breathing fire, praised out nightwatchman Maharaj with a 143 kph yorker off the last ball of the day. At stumps, South Africa was 94/4 chasing 305, meaning India is six wickets away from bringing about history here. There is, still, a danger of some rain on the last day. The SA batters, like the Indians earlier, were persistent and game for scrap on this ground but sooner or later, delivery was likely to come which would scamper brains.