MUMBAI (Reuters) – South Africa tailender Keshav Maharaj braved the pain against India in a career-best knock and combined with Vernon Philander in a gutsy rearguard action to push the tourists’ first innings total to 275 in the second test at Pune on Saturday.
Maharaj, who injured his right shoulder on the field on Friday, and all-rounder Philander batted for more than 43 overs during a gritty ninth-wicket stand of 109 in a lesson to their team’s more established batsmen.
Despite the effort from the lower-order batsmen, South Africa, who trail 1-0 in the three-test series after the opening loss at Visakhaptanam, still finished 326 runs behind India’s mammoth first innings total of 601-5 declared.
Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Maharaj when the batsman edged the off-spinner to Rohit Sharma at leg slip and then sent back number 11 Kagiso Rabada to finish with figures of four for 69.
Ashwin had also ended South Africa captain Faf du Plessis’ resistance after the lunch break to reduce the touring side to 162 for eight before Maharaj and Philander got together.
The pair showed dogged defence to block India’s spinners on a wearing pitch while also keeping out the fast bowlers who got the old ball to reverse swing at pace.
Philander remained unbeaten on 44.
India’s fast bowlers Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami made early inroads before Ashwin and his spin-bowling colleague Ravindra Jadeja caused further damage to South Africa.
The Proteas relied heavily on du Plessis to first avoid the follow-on and then bid for a draw to keep the series alive but the right-hander fell for 64 to Ashwin.
Yadav’s last appearance for India was at Perth against Australia in December and he was only included in the side for the second test with the Pune pitch sporting a tinge of green.
Having already dismissed South Africa’s openers on Friday, Yadav sent back number three batsman Theunis de Bruyn for 30 with wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha taking a sharp catch.
Shami had earlier picked up his second wicket and the first of the day for India in the third over by sending back nightwatchman Anrich Nortje.
Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock then fought back for South Africa and showed determination and positive intent against India’s spinners during a 75-run stand after their side had been reduced to 53-5 at one stage.
Ashwin broke the partnership by bowling out de Kock for 31 in a body blow to the touring side.
Du Plessis played some classic drives and effective sweep shots, hitting nine fours and a six before edging the off-spinner to slip.
Jadeja took out Senuran Muthusamy but Philander and Maharaj, who looked in pain on numerous occasions, soldiered on.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Ken Ferris)