Off-spinner Dane Piedt struck crucial blows for South Africa to leave India struggling at 139/6 at tea on the opening day of the fourth and final cricket Test against South Africa at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium here on Thursday.
Piedt bowled well on the slow pitch to return figures of 4/56. Pacer Kyle Abbott also bowled well, claiming the wicket of the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha for figures of 2/21.
Ajinkya Rahane was batting on 31 when tea was called. India captain Virat Kohli (44) was the most successful among the host batsmen, putting together a 70-run partnership with Rahane. Opener Shikhar Dhawan also batted well before being dismissed for 33. Opting to bat after winning the toss, India were off to a slow start with South African pacers Morne Morkel and Abbott keeping a tight line. Indian openers Murali Vijay and Dhawan struggled to negotiate the nagging line and length, inching their way to 29 in the first 15 overs.
Vijay was lucky to get a reprieve on a personal score of 10 when he nicked an outgoing delivery from Abott to AB de Villiers at second slip which was adjudged to be a no-ball. The Tamil Nadu batsman suffered a nasty blow when he was surprised by the extra bounce of an Abbott delivery. The ball reared up from around the good length spot and brushed his gloves before hitting Vijay on the abdomen. Piedt gave the visitors the breakthrough when Vijay edged one to South Africa captain Hashim Amla in the slips.
Dhawan, who has struggled throughout the series was in much better form on the day. The left-hander hit several of boundaries, including an elegant drive through the covers off Morkel. Pujara, one of the most successful Indian batsmen in this series, continued his fine form at the other end.
A bit cautious at the start of his innings, Pujara grew more confident as the innings wore on, smashing a full toss from leg-spinner Imran Tahir for a six in th last over before lunch. The Proteas struck decisive blows almost immediately after lunch, removing Dhawan and Pujara in consecutive overs. Piedt trapped Dhawan leg before with one that turned sharply before hitting the Delhi batsman on his pads in front of off and middle. Pujara, who seemed set for a big knock, was sent back to the pavilion in the very next over by a superb delivery from Abbott.
The South African pacer produced an incoming delivery from a fullish length which pierced the gap between bat and pad before hitting the off-stump. Kohli and Rahane then came together to try and steady the boat. The duo were aided by the slow turn of the pitch which allowed them to adjust and play their shots. It was Piedt who again struck a crucial blow for the visitors when he sent Kohli back to the pavilion. Kohli produced a powerful sweep which hit Temba Bavuma at short leg and went up in the air.
Wickekeeper Dane Vilas came rushing from behind the stumps and dived to make the catch. Abbott was unlucky not to dismiss Rohit Sharma when the Mumbai batsman — who was yet to open his account at the time — edged an outgoing delivery which was dropped by Amla in the slips. But the Proteas did not have to wait too long for their next wicket as in the very next ball that he faced, Rohit hit a skier off Piedt to Tahir at long on. Abbott struck with the final ball before the tea break, reversing the ball into Wriddhiman Saha. The Indian glovesman was beaten by the pace and movement as the ball pierced his defence before taking out the stumps.
India were batting at 139/6 at tea on the first day of their fourth and final cricket Test against South Africa being played at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Thursday.
Middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane was batting at 31 while wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha fell on the last ball of the second session for a single. Captain Virat Kohli was the top-scorer for the hosts with 44. Off-spinner Dane Piedt was the pick of the South African bowlers, scalping four wickets, while pacer Kyle Abbot picked up two.
The following is the scoreboard at tea on the opening day of the fourth and final cricket Test between India and South Africa here on Thursday.
Murali Vijay c Amla b Piedt 12 Shikhar Dhawan batting 31 Cheteshwar Pujara b Abbott 14 Virat Kohli c Vilas b Piedt 44 Ajinkya Rahane not out 31 Rohit Sharma c Imran Tahir b Piedt 1 Wriddhiman Saha b Abbott 1
Extras (nb 3) 3
Total (6 wickets; 53.5 overs) 139
Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Vijay, 16.2 overs), 2-62 (Dhawan, 28.5), 3-66 (Pujara, 29.6), 4-136 (Kohli, 46.6), 5-138 (Rohit, 50.1 ov), 6-139 (Saha, 53.5).
M Morkel 12-2-35-0 Kyle Abbott 15-5-21-2 1 Dane Piedt 20-3-56-4 Imran Tahir 4-0-18-0 Dean Elgar 3-0-9-0
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
Television umpire: C.K. Nandan (India)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
Reserve umpire: A.K. Chaudhary (India)