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DURBAN: Murali Vijay was closing in on a first overseas Test hundred when bad light did what South Africa's pacemen had failed to: halt India's assured advance on the first day of the second Test at Durban. MS Dhoni's team were sitting pretty on 181/1 in the 61 overs that the conditions permitted, before descending gloom spelt the end of play. After their captain sent them in to bat, on a pitch with limited lateral movement, and in a match that forms the final encounter of a unjustly-brief series, India's young stars Vijay (91*) and Cheteshwar Pujara (58*) added 140 near-chanceless runs for the second wicket, before the light meters came into action and sent them on their way.
If he had put in the hard yards at Johannesburg, now was the time for Vijay to reap the rewards. The Chennai opener’s 201-ball stay in the middle was an illustration in grafting, although it came on a surface that was radically unlike the Durban pitch on which India had last played and struggled to cross 200, in 2010. Supporting Vijay (‘supporting’ used here purely in a quantifying capacity) was Pujara, who helped himself to his fourth Test fifty, one that he will have high hopes of converting into yet another ton – Pujara
had six centuries and three fifties from 16 Tests before this one.
Dhoni elected to bat on a wicket with precious little for the faster men and South Africa’s bowlers struggled to gain appreciable movement. The result was a natural recourse to a fuller length, much to the delight of the openers Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. The mustachioed Delhiite looked good in his short, boundary-happy stay for 29, and ensured that even the slightest of over-pitching met with the sternest response. But on the first ball after drinks, with the total on 41, Dhawan pushed at yet another full delivery, Morne Morkel’s, and edged to third slip. That Morkel was playing was a miracle in itself, considering the disturbing picture of his damaged ankle that he had posted just a few days earlier on Twitter.
Well, Morkel played, and was evidently at peak fitness going by the nippy (above 145 kmph) stuff he regularly unleashed. Dale Steyn from the other end was desperate for an improvement on his one-wicket showing at the Wanderers. Both breathed fire and probed the batters around the off-stump: Vijay was struck on the arm, then on the box, then beaten, but stayed put, before Robin Peterson’s docile left-arm spin relieved the pressure.
Peterson, in the side for Imran Tahir, was taken for a boundary in each of his first three overs and India went to lunch on 76/1. The second session proved to be even more fruitful: 87 runs for no wicket, as both Vijay and Pujara eased into a comfortable groove. Vijay leaned into drives off Steyn and Vernon Philander - who had last week ascended to the No.1 Test bowler’s slot - and then slashed Jacques Kallis, playing his last Test, to bring up his fourth fifty.
Pujara meanwhile was picking on Steyn, timing him through the on-side each time the paceman strayed on the pads. A whip and a flick stood out, and when Peterson came on for his second spell late in the middle session, Pujara stepped out to loft him over cover for another sparkling half-century, his fourth in Tests.
There was, however, some reverse swing for the bowlers, not enough to cause outright distress to batsmen, but enough to compel Graeme Smith to experiment with a legside-heavy field. Bad light eventually arrested India’s progress, Vijay nine tantalizing runs away from a first away ton, and Pujara looking good for his second of the series. Play will resume half-hour earlier than scheduled on Friday to make up for lost time.
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Bad light arrests Indian juggernaut
2nd Test -- Unbeaten half-centuries by Vijay and Pujara featured on the first day at Durban.By News Desk | Yahoo Cricket – Thu 26 Dec, 2013 9:03 PM IST
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