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Updated: December 23, 2013 01:40 IST

A Test that will be savoured forever

K.C. Vijaya Kumar
Comment (11)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
South Africa's Faf du Plessis celebrates his century during the final day of the first Test against India in Johannesburg on Sunday.
AP South Africa's Faf du Plessis celebrates his century during the final day of the first Test against India in Johannesburg on Sunday.

There was no triumph. There was no loss. In the end, it was a draw. But if ever a stalemate was as gripping as this, cricket historians are still searching for it.

India and South Africa found their wavering fortunes enmeshed equally, and out of that was born a classic Test at the Wanderers Stadium here on a rousing Sunday.

Chasing 458, South Africa finished with 450 for seven in its second innings. Dale Steyn’s last-ball six off Mohammad Shami was the final pulsating bit of a match that is one for the ages.

If India was ahead in the morning session, South Africa turned it around post-lunch as centurions Faf du Plessis (134) and A.B. de Villiers (103) promised a miracle through their 205-run fifth-wicket partnership.

In the last session, India found its jail-break moment through Ishant Sharma when de Villiers chopped onto his stumps in the 124th over.

Once de Villiers departed and Shami castled J.P. Duminy, all possible results were still on the cards.

There were more twists, though, as Ajinkya Rahane’s throw left du Plessis stranded, Shami and Zaheer Khan bowled maiden overs and it all boiled down to 16 from the last six deliveries: those runs for South Africa and the three wickets that India needed, proved equally tough, and a conclusion that even the best pen-pushers can only dream of, was ushered in.

The players soon trooped off, tired but proud that they had competed in a game that will be savoured forever.

Earlier, de Villiers was a picture of poise and elegance as he leant into Ishant’s delivery and drove it with élan. In contrast, du Plessis stayed rooted, offering stability in an alliance that threatened to demolish the Indian dreams.

Much rested on the new-ball post lunch but once that tipping point was reached, the South Africans found rapid runs. de Villiers flicked Zaheer twice in succession, to fine-leg and square-leg while du Plessis reached his fifty, pulling Shami’s short-pitched delivery.

On Saturday, de Villiers had tweeted: ‘Another tough day for us. Wont give up the fight.’ True to his words, he and du Plessis blunted whatever challenge the Indians raised.

Balls were defended and scoring opportunities were taken up with alacrity, and luck too favoured them as Rahane’s throw missed the stumps when du Plessis had given up, and balls that tended to zip off a wearing pitch, took the leading edge and flew into no-danger zones.

If the Indians were waiting for the big-kill, it proved to be a long one.

At tea, South Africa was on 331 for four, still needing 127 and anything was possible.

Earlier, commencing its chase at 138 for two in the morning, South Africa was jolted in the day’s fifth over as Shami got one to nip back close to the stumps, and Alviro Petersen, playing a half-measure shot, deflected the ball onto his stumps.

The host, though, was in no mood to fold, with du Plessis staying on and Jacques Kallis dishing out a garland of cover-drives — five of them — against Zaheer and Shami.

Just as the crowd was warming up with its chorus of ‘Kallis, Kallis’, the batsman shaped for an on-drive off Zaheer and managed an inner-edge onto his pads. The Indians’ appeal was upheld, and Zaheer had got his 300th wicket in Tests.

In the lead-up to lunch, du Plessis and de Villiers survived a few appeals for lbw, and the match was set up for a gripping afternoon session: South Africa needing 222 runs and the Indians six wickets.

What happened later was the stuff of dreams. This was a draw in which cricket triumphed.

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After doing pretty well for the first two days, the Indian completely
dominated the third day. If it had been a Tennis match, it would have
got over in the first three sets. But then this is Test cricket. South
Africa clawed back on day four. The bowlers made breakthroughs and then
Petersen resisted. A kind of Laxman-Dravid magical effort from AB and
Faf on fifth day took them close to doing the incredible. However the
man who gave the momentum to SA innings is Jacques Kallis. He counter
attacked after the loss of Petersen on the fifth day morning. That had
set up things nicely. TIME saved the match for India.

from:  Sathish
Posted on: Dec 24, 2013 at 02:14 IST

we were short of another 100 runs. kohli was building patiently towards his hundred before attacking but alas that didnt happen. except zak, no other down order players including dhoni upped the tempo. had it been 550+ to chase, it would have been different story. kudos to ABD and Faf. who said test cricket is boring! loved it.

from:  iyer
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 18:11 IST

I followed this match on 5th full day and till last 4 overs, the match
seems to have a result in favour of SA. In last 24 balls, they need mere
20 runs with 4 wickets in hand. But I think, Philander (the senior
partner at crease) was in no mood to win. I feel all efforts of AB
devillars and du plesis went in vain just because of philander. Why not
captain of SA intervened and sent message to batsmen at the center?

from:  Nitin Goel
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 12:01 IST

It was easy going for SA after their splendid fight back by Duplesis & De villiers. But they could not hold their nerve till the end. It was splendid work from Ishant,Shami & Rahane in the end which saved India from Defeat.Steyn has not lived up to his reputation as No-1 bowler & Morkel's injury,these two things added to SA's woos.

from:  krishna Reddy
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 11:40 IST

What a match? Great character shown by Team India. They defended a match which seemed to be lost at the moment. This team is full of potential and will play great matches in future. Great captaincy by Dhoni in saving Shami for last and letting him get some rest before final onslaught. The way he defended last four overs was superb. Excellent game played by team India. Hard luck to SA they also fought really well. They also deserved to win. There were no losers in the match. This match showed why these two teams are top on the test teams ladder.

from:  Nagarajamani M.V.
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 10:29 IST

Greame Smith, the SA Captain has summarised correctly when he said
that India never looked like a team looking for Victory in spite of a
target of 458 in the fourth innings of the match for the opponents.
Any captain will have loved to set an attacking field and tell his
bowlers to go after the opposition. Dhoni, for whatever reason, with
defensive field placements throughout the SA second innings,has
decided not to push for victory so much that the indian bowlers have
been forced to be content at containing the opposition and in the
struggle for the darw, thanks to Rahane's straight throw to dismiss
Faf!

from:  Kulashekhar
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 09:55 IST

At 35 any pace bowler can be considered a spent bullet. Zaheer no doubt is a good bowler, but Bhuvaneswar Kumar is a lot more penetrating. I hope he is given a chance in the second test.
Chasing 458 in the second innings is certainly a high-pressure job but SA has the repertoire to pull it off. The 205-run stand between du Plessis and de Villiers gave India the shivers. When so much of the deficit was wiped away by these two batsmen, SA could have gone hammer and tongs for a win. Perhaps they did not want to lose their no.1 position, so they decided to play it safe. R.Sharma and S.Dhawan were heroes on home soil, but when they faced accurate and fiery pace, their defence cracked. Much of their glory is seen only on paper and not on the field. That's why we got a severe licking in the ODI's. We wounded the pride of SA in the 1st test and they will surely come up with greater venom for the 2nd test. Individual performances stand out as show-pieces, but as a team we have not clicked.

from:  DAMODARAN. K
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 08:44 IST

If 22 players could not make a positive result ,what is the use of watching a Test Match for
the last 5days,This was totally safety first attitude of both teams,SA proved that once again
they are chokers in emergency! What if one team looses,they have another match for
compensating.Captains like ,Pataudi,Sobers,Worrel would not mind loosing when attempting for a win,present captains must
think that this attitude will result in anticlimax,poor crowd will watch,collection loss so on,Anyway had it been bowlers like Ramkant Desai,KapilDev,Karsan Gavri ,Subash Gupthe, or Prasanna, anyone of them could have bundled out this SA below 300.and won the match for India.best wishes for drawing another match for both teams

from:  AmmanurSrinevasan
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 08:25 IST

A superb test match. Simply no one deserved to lose this match. Everyone
played their part. Post Dravid, we may have found a new wall in Pujara.
Along with Kohli and Rahane India is living upto the legend of team of
great batsmen.

from:  S.Gurumanickam
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 08:22 IST

Test cricket has definitely won.
Great personal achievement for workhorse Zaheer Khan on reaching 300 milestone. Congratulations.

from:  T. R. Kothandaraman.
Posted on: Dec 23, 2013 at 06:21 IST

What a finish?! I thought both India and SA did extremely well
considering the inexperienced Indian bowling with Zak being an
exception. I wonder if Zak would be a lot dangerous if he were to add
another 10 miles to his pace. It is a pity they lacked the punch and
penetration in the fourth innings. I am still puzzled that SA turned
pretty defensive after the loss of du Plessis. They should have
pressed for a clean win, which was theirs' to take. This was a little
unbecoming of a number one test side in the world. I do not think
India under MSD or other team would have played for a draw under these
conditions. That was a shame! In the end, the Indian bowlers could
not bowl out SA in the 4th innings, while the SA lacked courage to
finish off in style. It was an exciting but a sad finish. This match
should nevertheless give the young Indian bowling attack led by Zak a
lot of confidence. Ashwin did a great job. It is a moral victory for
India in the end. Well played India and SA!!!

from:  Srini
Posted on: Dec 22, 2013 at 23:40 IST
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