Like the sun that made a belated but strong appearance after a steady drizzle washed out play before lunch, the highly rated South African pace attack led by Dale Steyn, made its presence felt finally in the second Test at the Kingsmead Stadium here on Friday.
The second day was split between two parts — a hand-wringing morning session laced with a steady drizzle and a fast-paced afternoon passage that compressed extensive action within a limited time that the Proteas dominated, scalping nine Indian wickets for just 153 runs.
The positive trend extended into the host’s batting too and at close, South Africa scored 82 without losing a wicket in reply to India’s 334.Earlier amidst the setbacks inflicted primarily by Steyn (six for 100), India mounted a few pockets of resistance through two partnerships in which Ajinkya Rahane (51 n.o.) was the common bond.
Virat Kohli and M.S. Dhoni playing their brief parts while the host’s attack created opportunities that were lapped up by its eager fielders and none more than wicketkeeper A.B. de Villiers, who had two stunning catches among the five he pouched in the Indian innings.
After a non-existent first session, India resumed at the overnight 181 for one and was immediately confronted by a fired up Steyn and Morne Morkel. The duo bowled closer to the stumps and spiced it up with the ones that hurtled towards the batsmen’s rib-cage. Steyn forced edges from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara but the ball just raced through flailing hands at slips.
Steyn shed the dormancy that had crept into him since India’s second innings at Johannesburg when he went wicket-less. The speedster put that aberration behind him and forced the batsmen to play and Pujara (70) was consumed through a delivery that pitched in line and moved a few millimetres to graze the bat. A 157-run second-wicket partnership was terminated and the host suddenly had a spring in its steps.
Vijay, edging closer to his fourth hundred and first overseas, had largely stayed out of harm’s way when Steyn dug it in short.
Tragically, Vijay (97) failed to avoid a bouncer swerving past his head and going down the leg-side. The ball pinged his glove and went straight to de Villiers. Next ball, Steyn knocked out Rohit Sharma’s middle-stump as the batsman shouldered arms and looked shell-shocked.
Steyn’s first spell (5-2-19-3) had left India vulnerable and, to make it worse, he returned with the new ball and struck Rahane on the helmet.
Gradually, Kohli and Rahane added 66 runs for the fifth wicket and they handled the speedsters with some degree of restrained comfort.
Kohli flicked Steyn, cut Vernon Philander and was not averse to pulling. Rahane, braving a torrid time from Steyn, got one back at the bowler with a splendid straight drive.
Before India could hope for more, Kohli was dismissed with de Villiers’ brilliance causing the downfall.
Kohli feathered Morkel down the leg-side and when it was presumed that the ball was headed towards fine-leg, de Villiers leapt sideways to his left and caught the edge.
India went in to tea at 271 for five and emerged positive after the break but that was as long as Rahane and Dhoni lasted together in their 55-run sixth-wicket partnership. The duo toyed a bit with left-arm spinner Robin Peterson and Morkel before Steyn returned to do his demolition job.
Dhoni chased outside off-stump, Zaheer Khan was startled by the bounce and Ishant Sharma poked and the highlight was another gravity-defying catch by de Villiers. That effort spelt doom for Zaheer and it was Steyn’s fifth wicket.
In the melee of tumbling wickets, Rahane reached his well-deserved fifty while Ravindra Jadeja failed to open his account and fell to part-time off-spinner J.P. Duminy. The snick sailing to a happy Jacques Kallis at first slip, his 200th catch.