Nagpur, Nov 27 (IANS) India struck decisive blows to inch closer to winning the match and the series on the third day of the third Test at the Vidarba Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium here on Friday.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up two wickets in the morning session before leg-spinner Amit Mishra removed the dangerous duo of Hashim Amla and Faf du Plesis after lunch as South Africa faltered in their attempt to chase down the victory target of 310 runs.
The Proteas were 151/6 at the tea break with Jean Paul Duminy and Dane Vilas holding on in the middle. The visitors need another 159 runs to win with four wickets in hand.
The Indian bowlers made merry on the crumbling pitch with Mishra (3-40) and Ashwin (3-50) picking up crucial wickets. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja was also going strong, although he is yet to claim a wicket in the second innings. Pacer Ishant Sharma also bowled well, helped on by the unpredictable bounce and movement offered by the uneven surface.
South African skipper Amla and du Plesis came together after the fall of the in-form AB de Villiers in the pre-lunch session to offer a spirited fightback to the Indian bowlers. The duo put together a 72-run partnership although they were finding it tough to negotiate the dificult pitch.
Amla, who has not been at his best so far in this series, gave a good account of himself. He showed much better application and footwork, notching up a well made 39 before caught by India captain Virat Kohli off Mishra’s bowling.
Du Plesis (39) gave his captain excellent support from the other end, smashing three boundaries and a six during his stint in the middle.
Staring the day at 32/2, South Africa suffered an early blow when Dean Elgar got a thick inside edge off an Ashwin delivery. The ball rebounded off the pads for a simple catch by Cheteshwar Pujara at silly point.
De Villiers seemed to be in good nick and even smashed Jadega for a boundary through mid-off. But Ashwin accounted for the experienced South African with a carrom ball that kept straight after pitching. De Villiers misread the spin of the ball which hit the rear leg and the umpire had no hesitation in awarding a leg before decision.
India currently lead the four-Test series 1-0 after winning the first encounter at Mohali. The second match in Mohali was washed out due to heavy rain. A win here would see India clinch the series.