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India rule opening day

- Vijay, Pujara torment SA bowlers; Bad light stops play early

Jacques Kallis waves to the crowd, on the first day of his farewell Test, at Kingsmead

Durban: Opener Murali Vijay made a statement with a fluent unbeaten 91 as India gained early control of the series-deciding second Test, against South Africa, on the opening day, Thursday.

The 29-year-old Vijay, who did not manage to get a big score in the Johannesburg Test, was just nine runs short of what could be his fourth Test century as the visitors reached a comfortable 181 for one before bad light stopped play at Kingsmead.

Vijay found an able ally in Cheteshwar Pujara (batting 58) as the duo stitched an unfinished 140-run second-wicket partnership to dominate the South Africans who toiled hard on an unresponsive pitch.

India made one change in their playing XI and surprisingly dropped off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for Ravindra Jadeja. South Africa, too, made one change, with left-arm spinner Robin Peterson coming in for leggie Imran Tahir.

Electing to bat, India lost Shikar Dhawan (29) early, but Vijay and Pujara, who scored 153 in the epic drawn Test in Johannesburg, ensured that they did not suffer any further damage by batting cautiously.

Riding on Vijay and Pujara’s exploits, India went into tea on a commanding position at 163 for eight.

Coming out to bat post tea, the two batsmen had disappointment in store as only eight overs were bowled in the final session of play before bad light interrupted the proceedings, eventually forcing the umpires to call off the remaining day’s play.

Earlier, resuming India’s innings at 76 for one in the post-lunch session, Vijay and Pujara further increased their 35-run partnership for the second wicket, playing with consummate ease.

Despite the sun hiding behind clouds after the break, the Proteas’ pace attack didn’t manage to extract anything extra-ordinary off the pitch.

The Indian batsmen, on the other hand, made good use of the conditions, playing watchfully yet at the same time scoring at a decent pace. India crossed the 100-run mark in the 30th over. The last 10 overs bowled by the Proteas in the post-lunch session cost 48 runs without producing a wicket.

Run-scoring became easier once the batsmen had got themselves in, something Vijay did with aplomb in the first session, and Pujara just carried on his form from the first Test.

In the 34th over, Vijay brought up a well-deserved half-century after grinding his way at Johannesburg without scoring too many runs. It was his fourth fifty in 20 Tests, coming off 102 balls, with 11 fours. Notably, he scored at a much better rate than the previous match, outlining the nature of the pitch.

Jacques Kallis and Morne Morkel bent their backs in the middle phase of the session, trying to get some purchase out of the wicket. But they only had disappointment in store as India raked up 60 runs in the 13 overs bowled in the first hour after lunch.

In the morning session, Kallis, playing in his last Test, led the hosts on to the field, where he was given a 10-second head-start by his teammates as the crowd cheered for the all-rounder who acknowledged them with raised hands and a bow with his hat.

Vernon Philander came back into the attack in the 43rd over, and Vijay greeted him with a sumptuous cover drive that brought up the 100-run partnership for the second wicket.

Pujara, on the other hand, quietly accumulated his runs, as India’s 150-run mark came up three overs later. (PTI)