JOHANNESBURG: The four days of Test match cricket here at the Wanderers, which began on Wednesday and concluded on Saturday, will forever be remembered as the one in which the Indian cricket team intimidated the opposition in the Wanderers ‘Bullring’, like no other visiting team has in recent history. In doing so, they registered a win that will knock down the tag of the team being ‘flat-track bullies’.
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The crowd booed, the nature of the pitch seemed to have changed dramatically, wickets dried up in the first two sessions of play and South Africa looked like they were in the hunt, chasing a fourth-innings target of 241 runs.
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India, electing to bat first on a very menacing wicket despite having picked five pace bowlers for this game, stayed patient. They bowled exceptionally well on a pitch that had eased relatively and eventually won by 63 runs. In doing so, they not only kept their record of not losing a Test at the Wanderers intact but also fashioned a victory that should go far beyond a mere consolation win.
South Africa were offered turning pitches when they toured India in 2015-16, which they weren’t happy with and had whined about before losing 0-3. India came to South Africa this time and the hosts offered pace and bounce – and in the process preparing wickets like the one at Centurion that surprised even the SA camp – looking to exact a 3-0 revenge.
India ensured that wouldn’t be the case. They defied their opponents in their own backyard, contested on a pitch that was made to bounce them out, and played without complaining about the viciousness of the track. As skipper Virat Kohli put it, only the 2014 Lord’s Test that India won by 95 runs was as special, or more so.
The win belongs to the Indian team, and more so to Kohli. It was indeed a courageous decision to bat first on this wicket after winning the toss, especially after picking five pace bowlers. No sooner did the game begin, questions began swirling whether he had made the right call.
Right until Day Four, post tea, when the South African wickets began falling, the debate continued. The match had seen a lot of drama on Day Three, thanks to a two-paced wicket looking dangerous because of a crack just short of good length. Day Four, in that respect, was expected to become all the more eventful.
Hashim Amla, the classic South African No. 3, alone played two innings of this Test for his team that kept them in the contest as far as batting was concerned. It was his 61 off 121 balls that helped the hosts stitch together a total where they managed to squeeze past India’s first-innings score of 187 by a mere seven runs. In the second innings again, it was Amla’s exceptional batting that stood between India and the eventual win. Once he left, caught at square leg by Hardik Pandya off Ishant Sharma‘s bowling, SA caved in.
Mohammed Shami, the most unsettled of Indian bowlers on this tour alongside Pandya, picked a five-wicket haul. However, it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah’s first-innings spell that helped set up the game for India.
The crowd kept booing even after the last wicket fell, knowing Kohli and Co. had wounded South African pride.
India 1st innings: 187
South Africa 1st innings: 194
India 2nd innings: 247
South Africa 2nd innings (Overnight 17/1): A Markram c Patel b Shami 4, D Elgar not out 86, H Amla c Pandya b Sharma 52, AB de Villiers c Rahane b Bumrah 6, F du Plessis b Sharma 2, Q de Kock lbw b Bumrah 0, V Philander b Shami 10, A Phehlukwayo b Shami 0, K Rabada c Pujara b Kumar 0, M Morkel b M Shami 0 L Ngidi c (sub) Karthik b Shami 4; Extras: 13 (b 7, w 6); TOTAL: 177 (73.3 Overs); FoW: 1-5, 2-124, 3-131, 4-144, 5-145, 6-157, 7-157, 8-160, 9-16; Bowling: B Kumar 18-4-39-1, M Shami 12.3-2-28-5, J Bumrah 21-3-57-2, I Sharma 16-3-31-2, H Pandya 6-1-15-0 Source : timesofindia