NEW DELHI: Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar compared the ‘controversial’ Johannesburg surface to the one India played on while facing Australia during their tour in 1969. Gavaskar, in his column for TOI, mentioned that it was the last time he witnessed an alarming improvement in a pitch after it had looked threatening and considered unsuitable for Test cricket by many, similar to how the Wanderers pitch turned out after appearing ‘dangerous’ for play on Day 3.
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On the fourth day, the pitch eased out for batting as only a few deliveries behaved viciously compared to the day before.
“The last time one heard of a dramatic improvement in the condition of a pitch was way back in 1969, when Australia toured India under Bill Lawry. That was the Test match at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi and India, after having bowled Australia for a low score in the second innings, were left to chase 190-odd in the fourth innings,” Gavaskar wrote.
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“The Indian spinners had turned the ball considerably and with the guile – added to their natural talent – had made Australia’s batsmen look pretty ordinary. Australia had Ashley Mallet and John Gleason in their ranks and so had the spin component along with the pace of Graham Mc-Kenzie, Alan Connolly to make India’s run chase tough if not impossible.”
“What happened was quite incredible as India coasted to an easy win, losing only three wickets in the bargain. Mallet hardly got to turn the ball and India’s batsmen being good players of spin were not going to fail if the ball wasn’t turning.”
The first batsman to 10000 Test runs, Gavaskar felt there were quite a few similarities to that Kotla surface and the one that turned out for cricket on Day 4 at Johannesburg. Indian bowlers, led by Mohammed Shami’s five-wicket haul, bowled out South Africa for 177 in their chase of 241, and in turn, giving India a face-saving win to end the series at 2-1.
“The morning session on the fourth day at the Wanderers reminded of that Delhi game as the pitch, which had been the subject of much discussion the previous day, had seemingly gone to sleep,” Gavaskar wrote.
“The ball hardly jumped up awkwardly and while it went past the outside edge quite regularly, India failed to get a single wicket in the pre-lunch session. Both Amla and Elgar batted with great gumption and determination and ran very well between the wickets to keep the strike moving, making it difficult for the bowlers to bowl to the right and left-hand combination. ”
Gavaskar credit Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar for batting with grit and determination. Resuming the innings at 17/1, the pair added a gallant 119 runs for the second wicket on a surface not easy to bat on. However, once that partnership was broken, India ran away with the game.
“Amla got a half century in each innings on this pitch, which is a terrific achievement and tells you how underrated a player he is. Elgar has always been a fighter and a gritty player batting well within his limitations,” he said.”The wickets of de Villiers and Amla, however, was just the tonic that India needed and it paved the way for a famous win.”
Source : timesofindia