South Africa v India farce as second Test sees more than 20 wickets fall on day one

Dean Elgar is bowled by Mohammed Siraj during the second Test between South Africa and India in Cape Town
South Africa opener Dean Elgar is bowled by India's Mohammed Siraj at Newlands - Getty Images/Rodger Bosch

An extraordinary day of Test cricket in Cape Town ended with 23 wickets falling and South Africa’s veteran opener Dean Elgar describing the pitch as the “weirdest” he had ever seen.

South Africa were bowled out in the first session for their lowest total since readmission, 55 in 23.2 overs, after winning the toss and batting first. India were taking control at 153 for four when they lost six wickets for no runs after tea in an astonishing collapse that kept South Africa in the match. India’s seamers struck three times before the close, leaving South Africa 62 for three, 36 behind, and somehow still in the game.

One of those to fall was Elgar who was dismissed twice in a day in his final Test on a cracked, poor pitch that offered variable bounce: low from one end and rearing up off a length from the other. With both sides boasting formidable pace attacks, batting was a game of chance. After 10 for 55 in the morning, a relatively calm afternoon saw India lose four for 111 before another revolving door in the final session of nine for 104.

“Weirdest one (pitch) I have seen,” said Elgar, playing his 86th Test. “I did not know it was going to play in that nature. To the naked eye it didn’t seem that bad. Test wickets in the past here have not played badly. I did not see it quickening like that. It generally plays slower and as a batter you can adjust but this seemed to get quicker as day went on. I don’t know what to make of it. It is a crazy day of Test cricket.”

Elgar, deputising for injured captain Temba Bavuma, opted to bat first when he won the toss but the innings was over by lunch, South Africa all out for their lowest score since 1932 and worst ever against India. Mohammad Siraj was unplayable hitting a good length, extracting bounce and movement, to finish with six for 25, the second best figures before lunch behind Stuart Broad’s eight for 15 against Australia.

Mohammed Siraj of India celebrates the wicket of Aiden Markram of South Africa
Siraj took six wickets before lunch on a bouncy Newlands pitch - Getty Images/Grant Pitcher

It took India just 9.5 overs to move into the lead as they looked for their first ever Test win at Newlands and level the two match series after losing in Pretoria last week.

The heavy roller sucked some of the pace out of the pitch between innings but once its effect wore off after tea, it became very difficult for batting again. South Africa had bowled too full with the new ball, trying to search for wickets to fight a way back, but after tea they took control. Virat Kohli hit six fours and a six, taking risks to try and make runs, but watched from the other end as Lungi Ngidi struck three times in an over to spark the fightback. Kohli fell for 46, the highest score of the day, edging Kagiso Rabada to slip.

Elgar is one of Test cricket’s born fighters and often plays his best cricket on tough surfaces. He wore a few blows on the body and one painful rap on the knuckles before falling for 12, caught by Kohli at slip. He was given handshakes and pats on the back from Indian fielders as he walked off for the last time.

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