Day 3 was an important one for South Africa in the context of this Test. Would they live to fight another day or would they crumble and crash to an innings defeat?
Enter Dean Elgar, one of the grittiest and stubborn batsmen in Test Cricket, and one of the very few genuine openers in the game.
He showed exactly what is required at this level, in tough circumstances, against quality opposition, as he made his way to his 12th Test century and first in India.
It was a wonderful innings to watch as Elgar was more positive than we are used to seeing from him, hitting four sixes and getting to his century with a nonchalant shot for six.
Elgar’s century also became the first for a Protea player in India since Hashim Amla’s 123* in the second Test all the way back in 2010. What a time to get it.
Captain Faf du Plessis played an absolutely beautiful knock, getting to his maiden Test half-century in India on his way to a solid 55, he batted with positive intent and took the attack to the spinners as he and Elgar took the Proteas forward with their 115 run partnership.
Quinton de Kock was next man in and he is in quite possibly the best form of his life, as he came out to bat and immediately had an aggressive approach. Together with Elgar, the pair ensured South Africa did the unthinkable, and avoided the follow-on with their fantastic 164 run partnership, which took South Africa from 178-5 to 354-6.
This innings from de Kock highlighted the importance of him batting at 7. That is where he shines. As Graeme Smith on commentary said, it allows for the team to lay a platform that enables him to then come out and bat in his natural way. There is absolutely no need for him to drop the gloves and move up the order as has been suggested by some on social media. Do not fix what isn’t broken.
This performance from South Africa was exactly what we wanted to see but never expected to see. A gritty knock from Elgar, the dogged resistance from the middle order, the exuberance from Quinton, and importantly, partnerships.
As a result, India looked defensive in the field, Ravi Jadeja who is often unplayable at home was less effective, and India had to rely on part-time bowlers Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari. It’s been a while since India have been challenged at home and the Proteas certainly gave them a challenge.
After the three wickets that fell late yesterday, fans were jumping up and down in their belief that this was a raging turner and totally unacceptable for a Test wicket. I’d dare say that the character shown by South Africa today proves that this was just a typical Indian Test wicket, one that required application, guts and just proper Test match batting, something that has been lost of late.
The Proteas reached stumps on 385-8, trailing by 117, having lost only 5 wickets for 346 in the day, in a remarkable rearguard action.
South Africa made us all believe today, they gave us hope. They did what we all wanted them to do, they played with passion and pride.
This was Protea Fire.
Long may it continue.