Cricket

India surprised at defensive strategy; Proteas optimistic of saving game

Yadav admitted that it can become a challenge for the bowling side when the batsmen are not ready to attack.

Indian speedster Umesh Yadav on Sunday expressed his surprise at the ultra-defensive strategy employed by the South African batsmen in the fourth and final cricket Test here but reminded them that one cannot last an entire fifth day by “just blocking” deliveries.

On the other hand, South Africa opener Temba Bavuma believes that his skipper Hashim Amla has set the benchmark on how to survive as they managed to sustain the pressure put by Indian spinners.

Asked if 72 runs scored by the South Africans in 72 overs came as a shocker, Yadav admitted that it was indeed so.

“Yes it’s a surprise as we did not think that they would play like this. The way they are defending is a surprise and they are not even trying to play a shot. Even deliveries they can score are being defended,” Yadav told mediapersons at the day-end conference.

Yadav admitted that it can become a challenge for the bowling side when the batsmen are not ready to attack.

“Yes it becomes a challenge when batsman does not play a shot as chances of getting a player out decreases. When a batsman does not take any initiative then even if you bowl a good delivery, he will just block it out. I can tell you this kind of cricket can be very boring, because you just are bowling over after over and nothing is happening,” he said.

“It becomes so boring that you start thinking as to whether something will happen or not,” Yadav said in reference to Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 23 off 207 balls.

Amla’s effort is the second least number of runs scored in the history of Test cricket for any batsman who have faced 200 deliveries.

Yadav said the Proteas would not be able to survive an entire fifth day tomorrow by mere defending.

“Yes, there is pressure on them and that is the reason they are blocking everything and trying to stretch this game. Our first target on Monday morning will be to dismiss them as quickly as possible. So I don’t think that they will survive the whole day without giving any catches,” he said.

“You never know that the character of the wicket might change tomorrow. Today also they gave catches, but they were lucky that those catches fell in the gaps rather than going to the fielders.”

Yadav said that the objective behind not enforcing follow-on was to bat the visitors out of the game.

“It is a strategy that we took. We wanted to score runs and set a target, which makes the team comfortable and then we thought of attacking. We felt that the more we scored in the first hour, the better it will be for us,” said the Vidarbha fast bowler.

“And we did score runs in that first hour. Normally, I don’t think there will be much of a problem to get them out as we have lot of time at our disposal,” said Yadav.

With the Kotla pitch getting slower with the passage of time, reverse swing is going out of play, assessed Yadav.

“If you see any pitch — after third or fourth day, it starts getting slower and slower. You don’t get the desirable pace or bounce from the wicket. This is happening with this wicket also as the pace off the track is gone. Even if you are bowling a bouncer, you are not able to work up the desired pace. It’s travelling easy (towards the batsman),” he said.

In fact, both Yadav and Ishant Sharma were brought round the wicket to create rough for the spinners in a bid to try something different.

“Yes, we tried to create a few patches so that the spinners get some kind of help. With no pace or bounce, it was difficult to get the deliveries to reverse. So we thought any patches that we could create will be good for our spinners.”

Asked about the team strategy on Monday, Yadav said: “Hopefully, we can have some other strategy tomorrow. They have been beaten on occasions, they have provided catches. It is difficult to defend and pass the whole day, they have to play shots.”

Hashim has set the benchmark on survival: Bavuma

Amla’s dogged unbeaten 23 off 207 balls took South Africa to 72 for 2 in 72 overs as the visitors look to avoid the ignominy of a 3-0 series defeat.

Asked if they have managed to rattle the in-form Indian spinners, 25-year-old Bavuma replied, “I wouldn’t say rattled, but we’ve managed to sustain the pressure that they put on us.

In all fairness, this wicket was better than all the other three wickets. I didn’t play in the other three matches but from the side, this one was better. We’ve managed to hold them back and hopefully tomorrow we can carry on with the same.”

For him, the other batsmen will have to follow the Amla-AB model of defending although it will be tough to defend for another 90 overs.

“It’s a tough ask. Asking the guys to bat out 90 overs! It will be Day 5, so you’re expecting the wicket to deteriorate even more. But we have the experience and we have the skill. Whatever happens we’ll be going down fighting.

“Hashim has laid down his mark. AB’s also there and we still have Faf (du Plessis) and Dane Vilas. So we’ll definitely be carrying the spirit into tomorrow and trying our best to try and salvage a draw out of this game,” said the pint-sized opener.

On personal front, he feels that his 34 off 117 balls has been his toughest examination in his nascent Test career.

“That was the toughest piece of batting I’ve had to do in my life. I always try to be positive and I always try to look to score runs. When I was put in a situation where the runs weren’t the priority but the amount of time you batted out there was the key thing. That was tough for me.”

Although he is a middle-order batsman, he is ready to do any job for the team, especially with the England series coming up at home.

“I’m keen to do more of the opening job. I always pride myself on being a team player. So wherever the opportunity is or wherever the team feels I can fulfil a role, I’ll do it. So, if I’m asked to bat No 7, I’ll do that. If I’m asked to open I’ll do that as well,” he said.

Bavuma said that defending is not his style of batting and it becomes very difficult when one needs to change it.

“I’m always trying to be positive and looking to score, especially against spinners. When you have to go against your natural instinct then that’s the toughest thing. In this match, it is not about the runs bit all about time. Batting time in a Test match is the main thing,” said Bavuma.

Batting on a fifth day track with a number of close-in fielders is not an easy task, Bavuma said.

“The guys make quite a lot of noise around there. They’re known for their theatre around the bat. They’re always trying to put you under pressure and force you to play out of character. That comes with the game. It makes it a bit more enjoyable.”

For him the tour of India has been an enriching experience.

“It’s been great. I’ve certainly been taken out of my comfort zone. I’ve been asked to fulfil a job that’s very hard. Opening is not the easiest thing. The experience has been great. I can take a lot of strides out of it. Hopefully, I can grow to higher levels from this experience,” he concluded.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 5:11:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/south-africa-tour-of-india-india-versus-south-africa-fourth-test-day-4/article7955045.ece

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