South African batsman Aiden Markram plays a shot during the first day of the second Test against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion, on January 13, 2018. By Gianluigi Guercia (AFP)
Aiden Markram fell six short of a century after getting South Africa off to a strong start on the first day of the second Test against India at SuperSport Park on Saturday.
South Africa were 182 for two wickets at tea after winning the toss and batting on an easy-paced pitch.
Contrary to expectations, there was no assistance for the fast bowlers and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was India’s only successful bowler, taking two for 53 in an unchanged 17-over spell.
Markram, playing in his fifth Test, looked set for a third century to go with hundreds he made against the modest opposition of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. He struck the ball with authority, particularly off the back foot, before he tried to guide a ball from Ashwin towards third man and was caught behind by Parthiv Patel.
Markram made 94 off 150 balls and hit 15 fours.
Markram and a struggling Dean Elgar (31) put on 85 for the first wicket before Elgar went down the wicket and was caught by Murali Vijay at silly mid-off, checking a drive when Ashwin bowled a bit shorter so that Elgar could not reach the pitch of the ball.
Hashim Amla, trying to end a run of moderate form, was 35 not out at tea. He survived a half-chance to Hardik Pandya at short midwicket off Ashwin on 14 and a diving catch to Patel when he glanced Ishant Sharma to the wicketkeeper’s left with his score on 30.
Patel was playing in place of Wriddhiman Saha, who had a hamstring injury.
India made two other changes. Lokesh Rahul replaced Shikhar Dhawan as an opening batsman and fast bowler Sharma came in for Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
South Africa again opted for a four-pronged pace attack, picking new cap Lungi Ngidi in place of the injured Dale Steyn. Ngidi, 21, played in three Twenty20 internationals last season but has played in only nine first-class matches, taking 31 wickets at an average of 20.45.