Images from Day 2 of the second Test between India and South Africa, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
Unheralded seam bowler Shardul Thakur was the unlikely hero after a career-best 7 for 61, which kept India on even keel against South Africa on an intriguing second day in the second Test, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
At 5 feet 7 inches and a physique that’s an antithesis of what is perceived to be a fast bowler's body, the skiddy Thakur (17.5-3-61-7) landed crucial blows at opportune moments to send the Proteas packing for 229 in their first innings.
His effort nullified India's seemingly inadequate first innings score of 202 and restrict South Africa’s lead to 27.
The visitors erased that before reaching stumps with 85 for the loss of stand-in skipper K L Rahul (8) and Mayank Agarwal (23) in the second innings.
Under-fire seniors Cheteshwar Pujara (batting 35) and Ajinkya Rahane (batting 11) were at the crease, both showing of positivity and intent.
India lead by 58 runs.
Shardul means 'Tiger' in Sanskrit and his teammates teasingly call him 'Lord Beefy', which incidentally is legendary all-rounder Ian Botham's nickname.
The 'Tiger' was in a mood to hunt inside the 'Bull Ring' under the sunny Johannesburg skyline and he did exactly that, coming up with a performance which is over and above what even coach Rahul Dravid would have expected.
On a pitch with spongy, tennis ball-like bounce, a total of 180 to 200 will be an onerous fourth innings chase for South Africa, as the match is expected to end well within four days if the weather doesn't play spoilsport.
The day started nicely for South Africa as their dogged skipper Dean Elgar (28 off 120 balls) was happy to play the ugly waiting game while allowing his younger colleague Keegan Peterson (62 off 118 balls) to play an attacking role.
It was going well in a stand of 74 as South Africa reached 88 for one before Thakur was brought into the attack in the 34th over as the second change.
With Mohammed Siraj bowling from a shorter run-up and not able to exert himself fully due to a hamstring injury, the man from Maharashtra's Palghar district had to take more responsibility with the team virtually one bowler short.
Mohammed Shami (2/52 in 21 overs) and Jasprit Bumrah (1/49 in 21 overs) once again bowled their hearts out, beat the outside edges without much luck before Thakur came into the picture and dealt three blows in quick succession just before lunch.
Earlier, the Proteas had the consolation of going into the lunch break just 11 runs short of India's first innings total of 202.
Just like skipper Dean Elgar (28 off 120 balls) and Petersen had a 74-run stand broken in the first session, Bavuma and 'keeper Kyle Verreynne (21) added 58 runs in a fifth-wicket stand before Thakur again got into the act.
If out-swingers worked well in the first session, it was the scrambled seam off-cutters that did the trick in the post-lunch dismissals.
In the case of Verreynne, the ball cut back from 'fifth' off-stump to beat his bat, while Bavuma, just like in the first Test, lost concentration trying to whip one that was drifting down but had enough bounce to take his gloves and Rishabh Pant completed a fine leg-side catch.
Pant took three catches; the one of Rassie van der Dussen though looked like having hit the ground before he took it.
While South Africa may still get ahead of India’s total, to be where they are after being well-placed at 88 for 1 in the first 90 minutes of the second session certainly means a lost opportunity on a track where it's becoming difficult to feel set.
While Jasprit Bumrah (0/34 in 17 overs) and Mohammed Shami (2/52 in 20 overs) bowled their hearts out without getting desired results in the two sessions, Thakur's strikes at the fag end of each session were a big boost for K L Rahul's men.
Skipper Elgar looked to defend stoically at one end, but Thakur got one to move away and take the outside edge of the South Africa skipper's bat into Pant's gloves.
In the case of Petersen, it was a rank-bad shot, as the seamer gave a hint of outswing, but the delivery was pitched slightly short of drivable length and the half-hearted push only resulted in Mayank Agarwal taking a smart catch in second slip.
The young Petersen, whose highest Test score till Tuesday was 19, looked in good touch, scoring nine boundaries in a resolute 62 off 118 deliveries, including a glorious cover drive off Shami.