Late wickets put Proteas in trouble

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Hashim Amla, pictured, was bowled by Mohammad Shami (AP) Hashim Amla, pictured, was bowled by Mohammad Shami (AP)

South Africa were left to rue two avoidable dismissals late on day four which undermined their bid to save the opening Test against India at Johannesburg.

Tasked with batting for four-and-a-half sessions, after India set a notional chase of 458, the Proteas were given the solid foundation of a century stand between openers Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen.

But after negotiating their way into the final hour of the day, Smith brought about his own downfall after calling for a single Ajinkya Rahane made sure he did not make with a direct-hit run-out from mid-on.

Hashim Amla, the home side's cornerstone so often, then departed in some embarrassment when he attempted to duck a Mohammad Shami bouncer that kept low and crashed into his off stump.

Petersen remained steadfast, though, to be unbeaten on 76 as the Proteas reached the close on 138 for two after 45 overs.

Faf du Plessis, who memorably helped South Africa bat through the final day on debut to claim a draw at Adelaide against Australia, was with him on 10.

But with the Wanderers wicket revealing far more demons than that Adelaide Oval pitch a year ago, India were still favourites to end their eight-match away losing run with a famous success against the world's top-ranked side.

Cheteshwar Pujara's first century on foreign soil was the key to ensuring the tourists' sturdy position after he and Virat Kohli continued their 222-run stand into the morning session.

They battered a weary South Africa attack - without Morne Morkel after spraining his ankle in the field on Friday - on the third evening to give India full control.

When they resumed on Saturday morning the task was to put their side out of sight, an objective that was achieved albeit after Kohli failed by four runs to become the first Indian number four to score two centuries in the same Test.

Pujara's 270-ball vigil had earlier come to an end with a rare loss of patience to edge Jacques Kallis (three for 68) behind.

Kohli looked set to join him on three figures - after Rohit Sharma was bowled by Kallis - only to edge behind to the part-time spin of JP Duminy.

Kohli perhaps thought he might reach his milestone with the ball he got out to, slashing at a short, wide ball that found a little extra bounce for wicketkeeper AB de Villiers to pouch.

India's lead was already ominous at that point, and after lunch skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni went for quick runs to push it beyond 400.

He managed 29 before holing out in the deep to Vernon Philander (three for 68), who also knocked over Ravichandran Ashwin.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir then belatedly claimed his first wickets of the match, trapping Ishant Sharma lbw pushing forward before Shami missed a slog sweep to be bowled.

Dale Steyn ended wicketless, after he managed just one in the first innings, with his 30 overs costing 104.

South Africa began their long-haul task of saving the game with a tricky 11-over spell before tea - during which time Smith survived a tough chance when Kohli dropped a catch over his head at leg-gully off Zaheer Khan.

The ball also regularly beat the bat, but Petersen reached his half-century from 84 balls before the century stand arrived just after the evening session drinks break.

The final hour proved important, however, as Rahane found Smith short - after 30 unrewarded overs of toil from the India bowlers - before Amla's terminal misjudgment.

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