PRETORIA – India captain Virat Kohli played a steadying hand as the tourists reached 80 for two at tea on the second day of the second test against South Africa in Pretoria on Sunday.
After bowling out their hosts for 335 just before lunch, India lost two wickets in quick succession before Kohli (39 not out) and opener Murali Vijay (31 not out) put on an unbeaten third wicket stand of 52 to take the side to the interval.
The wicket is offering slow bounce to the South African seamers, uncharacteristic for the venue, and they have battled to create opportunities with the same regularity as they did in the 72-run victory in the first test at Newlands.
The Indian openers took the score to 28 before losing their first wicket when Lokesh Rahul (10) was caught and bowled by Morne Morkel (1-24), misjudging a delivery that held up on the surface.
They lost another wicket on the next ball when new batsman Cheteshwar Pujara took on the arm of Lungi Ngidi at mid-on and lost, run out by a direct hit.
Debutant Ngidi entered the attack shortly afterwards and bowled an opening spell of four overs for six runs, almost claiming the wicket of Vijay, whose cut fell just short of a diving AB de Villiers at third slip.
South Africa had started the day on 269 for six in their first innings and profited from four dropped catches from the visitors to add 66 runs.
After Keshav Maharaj (18) was out when he edged Mohammed Shami to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, the 100th wicket in test cricket for the seamer, India contrived to drop three catches in two balls.
Kagiso Rabada (11) was then missed by India skipper Virat Kohli at slip off Ravichandran Ashwin (4-113), and the next ball spooned a simple chance to point.
Hardik Pandya was put off by an onrushing Shami from short third-man though and spilled the effort onto the latter, who also had a bite at the ball before it dropped to the floor.
Ashwin then induced a thin edge off Faf du Plessis (63) that was spilled by Parthiv as the frustration grew for the visitors.
Ishant Sharma (3-46) finally had Rabada caught in the deep and bowled Du Plessis, before Ashwin claimed the final wicket of Morkel (6).
South Africa lead the three-test series 1-0 after a 72-run victory in Cape Town in the opening fixture.