South African bowling ineffective against determined batting display

Brick by brick, India built an edifice of hope and the efforts have nearly borne fruit.

The first Test is no longer in the balance, it has swung India’s way.

It is indeed a delightful scenario, springing as it did from the bleak background of a 0-2 loss in the ODI series, an abandoned practice game at Benoni and a middling first innings score (280) here despite Virat Kohli’s ton.

Only a combination of dazzling South African batting in the second innings and poor bowling by the Indians can alter the match’s destiny and as the third day progressed here at the Wanderers Stadium, M.S. Dhoni’s men enhanced their advantage.

Having secured a 36-run lead, after bowling out South Africa for 244, India’s second innings clicked.

At close on Friday, India had scored 284 for two to sit atop a healthy 320-run lead.

Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara (135 batting) and Kohli (77 batting) played their overlapping roles of laying the base, moving forward and breaking the shackles remarkably well and India soared.

Century-maker Pujara showed that he could adapt to testing overseas conditions.

His sixth ton, and first on foreign soil, was another key ingredient for India to effect a turn-around

The ‘we-are-here-to-fight’ tone was set early as Shikhar Dhawan, who took second strike in the first innings, opted to be the first to face Dale Steyn when India batted again. Though Dhawan failed against Vernon Philander, the opener’s approach offered a glimpse into the mindset of the Indians.

Philander’s distinction

Philander’s 100th wicket (his 19th Test), the fastest by a South African bettering Steyn’s yield over 20 matches, could have been the ideal prelude to lunch for the Proteas but their hunger was diminished when Morne Morkel twisted his right ankle and was ruled out.

Effectively reduced to three bowlers, with Jacques Kallis being the third, while Imran Tahir became a mere after-thought to be pondered about when the fast bowlers got tired, South African skipper Graeme Smith was hamstrung for options.

It was an imbalance that favoured India but Vijay (39) and Pujara still had to counter the rival attack, especially Philander, and even Kallis, who bowled a nagging line before he pitched it short on either side. Pujara slapped one over gully and then bisected fine-leg and square-leg with a pull.

The 70-run second-wicket partnership spread over 26.2 overs, invaluably extended India’s lead in a contest that had the markers of an earlier tussle at the same venue.

The 2006 clash was littered with below-par scores but India’s 249 and 236 proved infinitely better than South Africa’s 84 and 278. And seen in that light, what Vijay and Pujara achieved was considerable. Sadly, like in the first innings, Vijay failed to march on — wafting down the leg-side against Kallis.

Smith tried everything, placing four men within the gaze of Pujara when Kallis ran in and later made wicket-keeper A.B. de Villiers bowl one over before tea. Thankfully for India, Pujara and Kohli refused to do anything silly.

Tahir taken apart

The ‘109 for two cushion’ at tea, got even more comfortable as Kohli slammed Steyn’s delivery after the break. Pujara then repeatedly cut Philander and along with Kohli, shredded Tahir’s freebies. Incidentally Tahir had dropped Pujara on 51.

During its unfinished 191-run third-wicket partnership, the duo precisely drove Kallis and Pujara picked the cover fence to reach his hundred while Steyn walked back forlorn to his bowling mark.

The tide had turned and India scored 175 runs off 38 overs in the last session.

In the morning, Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan’s medley of yorkers, bouncers and teasers outside the off-stump snuffed out the tail.

India mopped up the remaining four wickets for 31 runs in 9.3 overs. Later, its batsmen nearly closed the door on South Africa.

Scoreboard

India — 1st innings: 280 in 103 overs.

South Africa — 1st innings: Graeme Smith lbw b Zaheer 68 (119b, 11x4), Alviro Petersen lbw b Ishant 21 (41b, 4x4), Hashim Amla b Ishant 36 (74b, 6x4), Jacques Kallis lbw b Ishant 0 (1b), A.B. de Villiers lbw b Shami 13 (21b, 1x4), J.P. Duminy c Vijay b Shami 2 (12b), Faf du Plessis c Dhoni b Zaheer 20 (77b, 1x4), Vernon Philander c Ashwin b Zaheer 59 (86b, 7x4), Dale Steyn c Rohit b Ishant 10 (12b, 2x4), Morne Morkel b Zaheer 7 (9b, 1x4), Imran Tahir (not out) 0 (4b). Extras (lb-4, w-1, nb-3): 8. Total (all out in 75.3 overs): 244.

Fall of wickets: 1-37 (Petersen), 2-130 (Amla), 3-130 (Kallis), 4-130 (Smith), 5-145 (Duminy), 6-146 (de Villiers), 7-226 (Philander), 8-237 (Steyn), 9-239 (du Plessis).

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 27-6-88-4, Mohammad Shami 18-3-48-2, Ishant Sharma 25-5-79-4, R. Ashwin 6-0-25-0.

India – 2nd innings: Shikhar Dhawan c Kallis b Philander 15 (21b,1x4), Murali Vijay c de Villiers b Kallis 39 (94b, 5x4), Cheteshwar Pujara (batting) 135 (221b, 18x4), Virat Kohli (batting) 77 (132b, 8x4). Extras (b-5, lb-5, w-8): 18. Total (for two wkts., in 78 overs): 284.

Fall of wickets: 1-23 (Dhawan), 2-93 (Vijay).

South Africa bowling: Dale Steyn 21-4-64-0, Vernon Philander 18-5-53-1, Morne Morkel 2-1-4-0, Jacques Kallis 14-4-51-1, Imran Tahir 11-0-55-0, A.B. de Villiers 1-0-5-0, J.P. Duminy 11-0-42-0.

More In: Cricket | Sport