Destructive Mohammed Shami and wily Ravindra Jadeja run through South Africa

Clueless: Theunis de Bruyn is all at sea against Ashwin.

Clueless: Theunis de Bruyn is all at sea against Ashwin.   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK


Ashwin becomes joint-fastest to 350 Tests wickets; record for most sixes in a Test breached

He was fast, skiddy and attacked the stumps from a good length. On a surface of uneven bounce, Mohammed Shami was deadly.

Sizzling on a Sunday, Shami ripped open the heart of the South African batting with three wickets — in two bursts — before lunch and then returned to snuff out the resistance from the tail and finish with five Test-winning wickets.

Outplaying South Africa by 203 runs in the first Freedom Test at the ACA-VDCA Stadium here, India took its tally in the World Test championship to 160.

Perfect support

Complementing Shami was Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin of control and subtle variations.

He struck thrice in an over, following up Shami’s destructive bowling, and shutting out the contest.

There were several landmarks. Most number of sixes ever in a Test — 37 — were struck, three on the fifth day.

Off-spinning ace R. Ashwin, who finished with eight scalps, reached his 350th Test wicket, turning the ball in from outside off and defeating Theunis de Bruyn on the cut.

And, India’s new Test opener Rohit Sharma was adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his headline-grabbing century-in-each-innings act.

Shami held centrestage though on day five. The crucial aspect of Shami’s bowling is the rhythm in his run-up and he steamed in with both grace and venom.

On a surface of uneven bounce, it was hard to play a bowler with pace, deviation and control. Shami’s reverse-swing added to the batsmen’s challenges.

Temba Bavuma got behind the line but the delivery kept low to rattle the timber. Faf du Plessis, expecting the ball to go with the angle, shouldered arms to a Shami special that pitched outside off and seamed in to rearrange the woodwork.

Shell-shocked du Plessis certainly was. Shami leapt in joy.

Quinton de Kock, exceptional in the first innings, succumbed to a delivery that straightened to crash into his stumps. A tentative starter, de Kock played from the crease but credit to Shami for changing his angle skilfully to the southpaw and hitting the good length.

South Africa was reeling at 60 for five in the 24th over.

Then, Jadeja, always dangerous on a surface with a few cracks and rough, got into the act.

Opener, Aiden Markram (39), timing his strokes, lofted a well pitched up delivery only to see Jadeja leap high and pluck a fine one-handed return catch. The length of the ball had invited the miscue.

In the same over, Jadeja struck two more times, with typical left-arm spinner’s dismissals. The ball pitched in line and spun away to defeat the bat and struck right-handers, Vernon Philander, he bagged a pair, and Keshav Maharaj, on the back leg. The South African innings had unravelled spectacularly.

The resistance

Then came the resistance. Debutant Senuran Muthusamy once again batted with composure and technique, firmly getting behind the line of both pace and spin, using his feet and following his unbeaten 33 in the first innings with a fighting 49 not out.

The southpaw consumed 108 balls under pressure on a difficult wicket, was assured in defence and essayed some bright strokes too such as a square-cut and a cover-drive off Ashwin. The all-rounder is a genuine find.

Dane Piedt — he added 91 battling runs for the ninth wicket with Muthuswamy — danced down to spin for some weighty shots during his entertaining 56.

But as tea approached, Kohli threw the ball to Shami and the paceman hurried and forced Piedt to play on with a well pitched up delivery.

Soon it was all over. Kohli and his boys celebrated yet another victory.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 8:41:12 PM |

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