Having taken 1-0 lead in the ongoing three-match Test series against India, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat first on a brownish looking Centurion pitch on Saturday (January 13).
The Proteas opening duo of Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar ensured that the hosts don’t lose a wicket in the first session. It was Ravichandran Ashwin who gave India the breakthrough by sending back Elgar and breaking the 85-run opening stand.
As the day gone by, Ashwin struck two more times as he removed Markram six short of his third Test ton and got rid of Proteas wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock without letting him open his account. The seasoned off-spinner finished the day with the figures of 3 for 90. No wonder, Ashwin is ecstatic to keep India in the game.
"I like to think I have kept us in the game. It could have so easily been a game where they could have run away with it after the second session. I like to believe I was just dogged enough," Ashwin said while addressing the media after the first day's play.
“I think this was a good last session for us. Because I feel those wickets two run outs, which were extraordinary work by Hardik and bit of luck for us in the last session are very valid incentive for the team going into day two," he further added.
Ashwin, who has taken 306 wickets in 56 Tests thus far, also stated that his past performances have often hurt his professional pride.
"It was a reality check in terms of not being able to win a Test match for the country on day five when all things were actually set up for a spinner. It was kind of hit on my professional pride and from there on I knew I had to work on certain things, Obviously when you don't take wickets you don't get bull headed and believe things will get better from next time. I am not made that way atleast," the 31-year-old offie said.
Ashwin revealed that the team management was thinking of going in with the all out pace attack.
"Two days from the game it looked like we are going to play an all-seam attack. And then when we walked into the ground yesterday, it was white in colour and the grass was coming off, All of a sudden I really had to pull myself back and think I am in the game now. Today morning when we came to the ground, it looked like a wicket that was really flat and had to have a spinner in the game." he said.
Talking about the pitch, Ashwin said it was a flat a wicket and the bowlers had to toil hard throughout the day.
"Actually I wanted to try and change angles a lot more. There was hardly anything for the fast bowlers at all. If at all there was something, we were trying to get some reverse swing going and try and probably get a few catches in front of the wicket.
"Those are the kind of plans we were thinking but as a spinner I had very little opportunities to try, very little pockets to try. If you got a wicket then for the next 2-3 overs you could try a little bit and put attacking fields and change up," he concluded.