Stephen Cook (120 off 252 balls) and David Miller (78 off 115 balls) took South Africa A to a position of strength at 274 for 4, though India A dismissed both at the end of the first day of the first four-day game in Pretoria.
At stumps at LC de Villiers Oval on Saturday (August 12), Khaya Zondo was unbeaten on 4 with Beuran Hendricks yet to get off the mark.
Cook, 34, was dropped for the recently-concluded Test series against England series, but given Heino Kuhn’s struggles, a good run could bring him back in contention for South Africa’s home summer, which will include 10 Tests. Miller, who was withdrawn from the Caribbean Premier League to play for the A side, could be another option with the Test side’s middle order struggling for runs.
The home side opted to bat first after winning the toss and the pair of Cook and Aiden Markram, the captain, proceeded with caution at the start. Cook took 18 balls to get off the mark, as the Indians kept things tight, bowling five maiden within the first ten overs.
Mohammed Siraj, who conceded just two runs off his first spell of four overs, wasn’t so disciplined in his second spell as he leaked five boundaries to allow South Africa to find their feet.
It was then that Karun Nair, the India captain, decided to introduce Shabaz Nadeem to the attack, and it paid off almost immediately. The left-arm spinner delivered in his second over, having Markram caught by Shreyas Iyer for 22.
Cook and Rudi Second rebuilt the innings with a 73-run partnership, but Siraj bowled the latter for 32 before he could capitalise on his start.
However, Cook found excellent support from Miller, who came in with South Africa at 130 for 2. Miller, known for his aggressive batting in One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals, was positive from the onset though he showed good restraint too.
With Cook well-set at the stage, Miller ticking the occasional boundary when required considerably eased the pressure off South Africa. Soon after the two steered the side past the 200-run mark, Cook brought up his 41st first-class century with a boundary off Nadeem.
Cook and Miller’s partnership grew to 138, before India dismissed both to claw their way back. Siraj (2 for 51) caught Miller off his own bowling while Nadeem (2 for 81) had Cook caught by Nair two overs later to leave South Africa at 270 for 4.
With less than three overs left in the day, Zondo and Hendricks ensured the side didn’t lose any more wickets while India would be pleased to have finished strongly after a day of toil.