De Villiers warms up with ton but SA struggle
Indian Board President's XI 296 (Rahul 72, Steyn 3-46) & 92 for 0 (Pujara 49*, Rahul 43*) drew with South Africans 302 (de Villiers 112, Thakur 4-70)
AB de Villiers scored his fourth century of the tour to save the South African side's blushes after a collapse in the morning session on the second day of their tour game against the Indian Board President's XI. De Villiers and wicketkeeper Dane Vilas were the only specialist batsmen to score more than 25 after the rest fell to the young Indian pace pair of Shardul Thakur and Nathu Singh. The South African batsmen's short stays in the middle gave the tail-enders some time to get a feel of willow on leather and allowed the side's spinners another outing before the first Test next week.
None of the Board President's XI bowlers are in the Indian Test squad but Thakur made a case for himself with searing spells on both days. On Friday evening, Thakur removed Stiaan van Zyl and Simon Hamer and, on the second morning, he added the wickets of Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla to his tally.
Thakur's strategy was simple: assault the area outside off and draw batsmen forward with a fullish length. He beat Dean Elgar, du Plessis and Amla, and also induced inside edges from them - the first one from Amla dropped short of second slip - before du Plessis fell trying to flick Thakur on the legside and played down the wrong line. The bowler's lbw appeal was successful and the Board President's XI caused some early jitters for the tourists.
Amla's lean run continued, and Elgar also edged to slip, off Nathu Singh, to leave the South Africans looking vulnerable. They lost three wickets for three runs in the space of five overs, sunk to 57 for 5 and de Villiers found himself with a job to do. Suddenly what was supposed to be a practice match became a patience game.
Thakur continued to probe outside off, Nathu reined in his pace and concentrated on discipline instead, and de Villiers and Temba Bavuma waited it out.
Thakur's morning spell ended after 7.4 overs with returns of 2 for 20, and things began to get a little easier for the visitors. De Villiers' fine form continued - he found gaps and the boundary and pushed for runs - although Bavuma's main concern seemed centered on survival. Cheteshwar Pujara could have used that opportunity to bring on the spinners but he kept the quicks on and it paid off. Bavuma was also caught in the cordon to leave the South Africans shaky at 111 for 6.
Spin was finally introduced in the over before lunch and continued after the break but Vilas dealt with it well. He shared in a 115-run stand with de Villiers, built on creative batting and strike rotation - the run he took to reach his fifty was particularly risky - to give a glimpse of what he can offer in the middle order.
The small crowd that occupied the top tier of the main stand was more interested in de Villiers, and their chant of "ABD, ABD" grew louder with each shot he played. The pull and sweep were particularly well received but the drive down the ground to bring up his hundred was, by popular consent, the shot of the day.
Ultimately, spin worked for the Board President's XI, when Vilas was bowled around his legs by offspinner Jayant Yadav but the spark had been taken out of any semblance of a contest. De Villiers looked ready to bat all day but was also bowled by Yadav, and the Board President's XI may have hoped for a quick way through the rest of the line-up.
Instead, they had to put up with Dale Steyn and his license to thrill. Steyn smacked the first ball after tea over the long-on boundary for six, and kept going in that vein. He found the boundary six times after that while Philander played a more watchful knock, as he is expected to do in the Tests. Kuldeep Yadav accounted for both of them to ensure the South Africans only had a six-run lead. With less than a session to go, however, the margin was irrelevant.
More important was the shootout the South Africans seemed to having between Simon Harmer and Dane Piedt, who opened the bowling. Both were frenetic in trying to prove their worth and searched for wickets without success. Imran Tahir and Dean Elgar took over, resulting in consequences South Africa could rue. Tahir injured a finger while fielding in his follow-through and although he continued bowling, he left the field soon after.
The Board President's XI also benefited from the lengthy last session. KL Rahul and Pujara, their two batsmen who are in the Test squad, got a good look at South Africa's attack sans the frontline seamers. Pujara made up for his small contribution in the first innings with an unbeaten 49.