The seam bowlers ruled in Johannesburg, and especially India’s Shardul Thakur, who was magnificent for career-best figures of 7-61 and who almost single-handedly stopped South Africa taking control.

South Africa started the day 35-1 in its first innings and built itself into a position of strength at 88-1 when Thakur struck three times in quick succession before lunch to remove Proteas captain Dean Elgar for 28, Keegan Petersen for 62 and Rassie van der Dussen for 1. Suddenly, South Africa went to lunch 102-4.

South Africa rebuilt in the afternoon and appeared set to forge well ahead at 162-4 only for Thakur to intervene again. This time, he broke a 60-run stand between Temba Bavuma and Kyle Verreynne. He ended up removing both, seeing off Bavuma for 51 and adding two more lower-order wickets.

The game swung yet again late in the afternoon when openers KL Rahul, standing in as India captain for the injured Virat Kohli, and Mayank Agarwal went cheaply and India was 44-2 in its second innings.

The experienced Pujara and Rahane, who might be playing for their places after poor runs of form, steadied things and made sure there was no more damage before stumps.

Pujara didn’t just defend, as he cracked seven fours in his 35 not out from just 42 balls to counterattack. Rahane dug in alongside him.

Their partnership, which was 41 off 52 balls, might be crucial for the match and the series with no Kohli to help after the captain and batting superstar was ruled out before the game with an upper back spasm.

Top-ranked India is seeking to finally crack South Africa and win a test series in the country on its eighth attempt.

Shardul spoke about his performance after the end of Day 2.”My best is yet to come for the team,” he said.

The all-rounder heaped massive praise on Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. “Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are the strikes bowlers of the team. At the start of the day, Both were bowling really well,” he added.

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