NAGPUR: Predictably, the ball kept low, kicked up dust from the surface and spun during the first two sessions of the third Test. But superseding turn, reverse swing emerged the highlight and left India in a spot of bother at tea on Day 1. After winning what might turn out to be a crucial toss, Virat Kohli’s team was 149 for six and fighting to reach a respectable position.
The day started on expected notes. Shaping to collect above waist, wicketkeeper Dane Vilas saw the first ball of the day fall in flight before taking it from below the knee. There was no swing for Morne Morkel or Kagiso Rabada and when they tried to bang it in short, lack of bounce meant they were wasting energy. Openers survived the first spell and it was spin from both ends by the 10th over.
The way Murali Vijay was taking the score forward with Cheteshwar Pujara suggested India had absorbed the loss of Shikhar Dhawan, but the return of Morkel in place of a wayward Imran Tahir changed the game. Overshadowed by Dale Steyn, Morkel shone in the lead role in his absence by removing Vijay and striking twice more in the afternoon session. If Ajinkya Rahane lost his stumps to one that swung back a long way, Virat Kohli was undone by a hint of away movement after the ball appeared to be angling in.
Bowling unchanged from the ninth over before being rested at the stroke of tea, Simon Harmer was it who got the ball to do the sort of things predicted by those associated with pitch preparation. The off-spinner got sharp turn at times which got him the wickets of Pujara and Rohit Sharma. Top six gone for not too many, Indian spinners got a job to do with bat as well before getting down to business.