Proteas own the day as India is bowled out for a modest 187

Sport

Proteas own the day as India is bowled out for a modest 187

The world's top ranked team made some regrettable decisions

Liam del Carme

The world's top ranked Test team made some decisions they may now lament on the opening day of the third and final Test against the Proteas here on Wednesday. 
India, already two-nil down and hoping to avoid a series white wash, opted to take to the crease and then found ways of vacating it.
Not that South Africa's attack was undeserving of their bounty. The Proteas' bowlers by and large put the visitors under the necessary scrutiny by plugging away at a nagging line and length, but to be fair, the hosts were far from their ruthless best in the field. 
Dropping Virat Kohli twice and having Ajinkya Rahane caught behind off a no-ball may have had disastrous consequences on a different day.   
As it turned out India were restricted to 187 with Kagiso Rabada claiming three scalps. In reply South Africa were 6/1 with Aiden Markram the man to depart.
Under leaden skies Kohli opted to bat first, a decision that appeared puzzling given the fact that India's top order has shown little aptitude in mastering the South African pace attack in this series.With the ball likely to deviate through the air and from the surface Kohli's decision could be interpreted as misguided bravado. He is however a man of deep conviction and one can only wonder how the course of the series may have been altered had his grip on this team not been as firm as it is.
India after all, tacitly acknowledged what they expect the ball to do by dropping spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for the seam threat of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. With Ashwin out of the picture India's tail is now as long as the Ganges. 
Moreover, on a day that required grit and application at the crease, the tourists'  injudicious shot selection further served to undermine the team's status in the global order of things. 
They were hoping to ride the initial storm before asserting themselves in the afternoon but the plan which showed promise with captain Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease, backfired as the sun shone on the hosts in the afternoon sessions.
Before and after lunch however it was a matter of who blinked first as the pair tried to wear down the Proteas' attack.
Kohli and Pujara had to tread carefully. Earlier India's openers again rolled out the red carpet to their middle order. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay simply lack the application to deliver performances of substance at the top of the order on bouncy South African surfaces.

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