India captain Virat Kohli smashed his 21st Test century and his second Test ton on South African soil to become the second Indian batsman after Sachin Tendulkar to score two Test centuries in South Africa. Kohli's innings was a blend of grit and attacking intent which saw the skipper face 217 balls, and stay at the crease for over six hours to single-handedly drag his team back into the contest. Kohli, who now has 21 test centuries and 15 half-centuries to his name, boasts of a conversion rate when passing 50 that is only second best to Australian great Sir Donald Bradman, who made 29 hundreds and 13 fifties.
Trailing 1-0 in the three-match series, India bowled South Africa out for 335 in their first innings on a flat wicket. While Aiden Markram (94) and Hashim Amla (82) missed out on their centuries, skipper Faf du Plessis (63) contributed with a solid half-century. In the Indian camp, Ravichandran Ashwin took a four-wicket haul to complete his best figures (4/113) in a Test against South Africa. Fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar finished with three wickets, while Mohammed Shami picked up a single wicket in the death overs.
In reply, the visitors looked untroubled in the early overs with the wicket not offering Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander much assistance. However, some clever bowling from Morkel and swift fielding by Lungi Ngidi reduced the visitors to 28/2 in the 10th over. That brought skipper Kohli to the wicket, who alongside Murali Vijay restored some respectability to the scoreboard. Following a 79-run partnership, Vijay was undone by South African spinner Keshav Maharaj, opening the way for quick bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi to remove Rohit Sharma (10) and Parthiv Patel (19). Kohli's only saviour was Ravichandran Ashwin, who stuck around with him for nearly 15 overs in a 71-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
India had their hopes high early in the second innings as Bumrah took the early wickets of Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla inside the first six overs. With the Proteas in deep trouble at 3/2, AB de Villiers and Dean Elgar stepped-up to build a solid 141-run partnership, which gave the home team room for comfort. A quickfire seven-over spell from Mohammed Shami saw AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock back in the pavilion. With the hosts reduced to 163/5, the possibility of getting bowled out for less than 200 was on the cards. However, skipper Du Plessis and Philander produced a patient sixth-wicket stand worth 46 to give the home team a competitive lead.
Chasing a target of 287 to level the series, India began nervously, losing both Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, early in the innings. The big blow came in the 16th over, when the first innings centurion Virat Kohli was dismissed cheaply by a ball that kept low and curved back sharply into the batsman. Following Kohli’s dismissal, the visitors went on a downward spiral with Rohit Sharma being the top scorer (47 off 74 balls). India succumbed to 151 all out in the second innings with debutant Lungi Ngidi finishing with figures of 6/39.
While the home team will be gunning for a series whitewash in the third and final Test in Johannesburg, the Indian batsmen will need to get their act together if they are to salvage some pride.
England’s Tour of Australia
Following the humiliating Ashes defeat, England overcame Australia in a historic MCG win to draw first blood in the five-match ODI series. England became the first team in the history of coloured clothes cricket to successfully chase down a total of 300 plus at the MCG.
Australia cruised to a huge total of 304 with a blazing century from opener Aaron Finch (107) and cameos from Mitchell Marsh (50) and Marcus Stoinis (60). However, that wasn’t enough to contain the England team.England opener Jason Roy hammered 180 runs off just 151 balls to help England register their first win on the tour. Roy shared an England-record third-wicket stand of 221 with Joe Root (91) who narrowly missed out on his century.
Roy’s blistering innings, which contained 16 fours and five sixes, saw him surpass Alex Hales' 171 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2016, and set a record for the highest score by an Englishman in ODIs. He also broke the record for the highest individual ODI score at the MCG.
England chased down the target of 305 with 3 overs to spare for the loss of just 5 wickets. The second game of the five-match series takes place in Brisbane on Friday.
Pakistan’s Tour of New Zealand
New Zealand are on the brink of inflicting a ODI-series whitewash on Pakistan. The Kiwis have beaten the visitors comprehensively in the 4 matches played so far, with skipper Kane Williamson and opener Martin Guptill leading from the front with the bat. Trent Boult (9 wickets) and Tim Southee (8 wickets) were the pick of the Kiwi bowlers
On the other hand, the visiting team have struggled throughout the series. Their abysmal batting performance is evident from the fact that Shadab Khan - their No.7 batsman - is the second-highest scorer for them in the series. The team nearly avoided the humiliation of posting the lowest-ever ODI score after being reduced to 18 for 6 in the 15th over in the third ODI.
While the series has already been lost, Pakistan will be desperately looking to avoid the ignominy of a whitewash.