Centurion: India were in a spot of bother at the close of play today but pacer Ishant Sharma feels the visitors have the chance to take the ongoing second cricket Test away from South Africa if Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya build up a good partnership on Monday.
Skipper Kohli scored a valiant 85 to keep the visitors afloat by finishing the day at 183 for five in reply to South Africa's 335 all out in their first innings. Kohli held together India's innings with a classy unbeaten knock which came off 130 balls and was studded with eight boundaries. Hardik Pandya (11 not out) was giving Kohli company at the crease.
The duo added 19 runs for the unbeaten sixth wicket. The visitors, who are down 0-1 in the three-match series, still trail South Africa by another 152 runs.
"I think it's pretty important partnership, obviously, because the way Virat is playing it is totally a different game. If Hardik gets going he can take the game away from the opposition. After tea yesterday, the run out from him was a game changer for us. He backs his strength totally and I am hopeful they will take the game away from South Africa," Ishant said.
"The balance is there currently. If Virat and Hardik have a good partnership then tomorrow's morning session is going to very important for us. And it is vital how we play tomorrow. That is very important for us," he added. The senior pacer took returned with figures of 3 for 46 on his return to the playing eleven. Ishant later revealed that he was in line to play the first Test but didn't take the field in Cape Town owing to illness.
"Actually I cannot blame anyone for this. I was supposed to play the first Test but I fell ill as soon as we reached here. I wasn't fully recovered from fever so I didn't play the first game.
"I am the senior fast bowler of this team so I have to take responsibility. If I am ready to take those important wickets for the team, I am always up for it," Ishant said. Ishant said his plan was just to bowl in right areas so as to make life difficult for the South African batsmen.
"The game was opening up a bit because of runs in the first session on day one. So my effort was to keep bowling in good areas and bowl according to plans," he said.
"I always believe in my strength and my strength is bounce, so I always try to bowl where I can finish my ball on the top of off stump. I think that's the best chance you give yourself to take more wickets and that's what I was doing,? He added.
India did well enough to restrict South Africa on day two morning after they were placed at overnight 269 for 6. Ravichandran Ashwin picked up four for 113, but missed a five-wicket haul due to two missed chances off Kagiso Rabada.
"We have coaches to talk about this and everybody is pointing it out. We don't have to react on all these things because it is part and parcel of the game. "You know they are fielders, and they will take brilliant catches for us. They have taken brilliant catches for us in the past, and I am sure they will take in the future as well. So there is no need to panic," said Ishant.
The lanky fast bowler denied that India were in control of the game just yet, despite Kohli's immaculate knock. "It was a pretty even day because we bowled them out pretty easily for 335 runs. On this kind of a wicket I think this was a good effort by the bowlers and we are at 183 for 5, so I think it was a pretty even day for both the teams," Ishant said.
Talking about the pitch, he outlined that it is still good for batting and nothing could be ascertained about how it would play in the fourth innings when India are scheduled to bat last.
"As we expected there would be bounce on the wicket, but on the first day, the wicket was quite slow. It was two paced. On such wickets you have to be very disciplined so we did that. We were trying the not to open up the game because otherwise things will go out of your control. So we tried our best to make sure that the game doesn't go out of control," he said.
"It is tough to say (how the wicket will change) because it is not the same wicket we got in Cape Town. It's a totally different kind of wicket, so it is important how we are going to play in tomorrow's first session," he signed off.