By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Dec 27, 2013
Dale Steyn‘s magnificent six-for helped South Africa bowl India out for 334 on Day Two of the second Test at Durban. Earlier, Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay had set a good platform as they helped India finish Day One on 181 for one. However, Steyn wrecked havoc on the second afternoon as it was a delayed start due to rain.
India won the toss and chose to bat. The tourists made one change to their line-up as Ravindra Jadeja replaced Ravichandran Ashwin. The whole talk about this inclusion has been the fact that Jadeja can bat, plus, they needed someone who could turn the ball away from the South African right-handers. On the other hand, South Africa too brought in their left-arm spinner Robin Peterson in place of Imran Tahir. Morne Morkel made a superb recovery after the ankle injury in the first Test.
Early on Day One, Shikhar Dhawan looked in fantastic touch. He started off with a lovely straight drive as he merely punched the ball down the ground for four. Vernon Philander and Steyn strayed on Dhawan’s pads a few times and he worked them away with all timing through mid-wicket. Meanwhile, Vijay was quite patient and took his time to get set. He too punished anything that was pitched in his half with all timing.
While Steyn and Philander weren’t troubling the Indian batsmen a lot, Morkel came in and purchased bounce immediately. He kept beating the bat and had the combative Dhawan in a bit of trouble. Ultimately, it was that persistence that helped Morkel as Dhawan was dismissed soon after drinks. Morkel changed his angle and came from round the wicket. Dhawan fished at that and edged it to Alviro Petersen at third-slip.
Pujara then walked in at No 3 and looked in decent touch. In the company of Vijay, they patiently took on the South African bowlers. Some of the shots that stood out were nice cover-drives for fours as they merely timed it. Jacques Kallis too came into the attack as the crowd cheered him for it is his final Test match.
Peterson came onto bowl later and his first ball was a full toss which was dispatched to the mid-wicket boundary by Vijay. He was later driven through the covers for a four by Vijay.
Starting the session on 76 for one, India continued to be positive with Pujara and Vijay taking full control of proceedings. They were rarely troubled and took to any opportunity that came their way. That approach was tempered with caution as they were ready to leave anything probing outside the off-stump.
The South African bowlers continued to pitch it full and both batsmen were ready to drive. In fact, even if there was width, Vijay was ready to chase it and he got to his half-century in that manner. It was a a good exhibition of application from both batsmen as even Pujara drove with panache. The on-drive off Dale Steyn which went to the boundary was easily the highlight of the session. There was a phase where India slowed down, but they were quick to hit back.
Robin Peterson was given the role of containing the batsmen, but they tried to target him a few times. Pujara walked out to him and hit him through mid-wicket for a four. There were a few appeals of his bowling, but they were clearly not out.
For Vijay, it is an important innings as there was pressure on him. Many criticised him for his inconsistency, but he has shown good application and technique. The only risk he may have taken is when he chased one outside the off-stump and it flew over the slips for four. Pujara and Vijay moved past their 100-run stand.
India have been much more proactive after lunch and in all they scored 87 runs. The conditions remained overcast and the lights had come on by the time tea was taken. Steyn came into bowl as tea approach and troubled Vijay with a brilliant over. Pujara got to his fifty by gracefully driving Peterson through mid-off for a four.
After tea, Vijay got off to a good start by smashing Peterson for a boundary through the covers. He later charged at him and lofted him twice for boundaries through the off-side. With those strokes, he moved into the 90s. Steyn was troubling the Indian batsmen and then the light deteriorated. The umpires then decided to call it.
Ultimately, the day’s play was called off 40 minutes before the scheduled close.
The whole morning session on Day Two was lost due to rain and a wet outfield and early lunch was taken. However, by 12:40 local time, the sun had come out and the outfield was ready. Resuming on 181 for one, India were in great touch and wanted to extend their domination. But, little did they know that they would run into Steyn.
Steyn troubled Pujara and Vijay as a few edges flew through the slips. He kept varying his length and kept them in check. Vijay had moved to 96 and the ton was in sight. Pujara was looking solid and was weathering the Steyn storm.
Later, Steyn just pitched one in Pujara’s half and had it moving away a little. Pujara was drawn into the shot and the edge went through to the wicket-keeper as South Africa celebrated early success. Kohli walked in to face the music and looked resolute and balanced.
Vijay then faced Steyn on 97 and one climbed on him as it went down the leg side. It took the edge and AB de Villiers took the catch. Steyn celebrated as he was breathing fire and working some serious pace. Out came Rohit Sharma and he needed some runs to get back into his groove. Instead, he let go the first ball he faced and it crashed into the stumps. Suddenly, India were 199 for four.
That is when Ajinkya Rahane joined Kohli and in tandem, they set off on a mission to rescue India. Both batsmen were very cautious early on and saw off Steyn’s fiery spell. As they saw off a few overs, they got into good rhythm. Some of the highlights were the straight drives they essayed off Steyn and also pulled him for boundaries. Those shots would have given them tremendous confidence. Rahane needed it more than Kohli as he was hit on the head once and then on the shoulders.
The duo put up 50 to help India get to a much better position. As Kohli was moving towards his own personal fifty, he flicked one from Morkel down the leg-side and into de Villiers’s gloves.
After tea, Rahane and Mahendra Singh Dhoni essayed a few good strokes to take the initiative. Both hit boundaries at regular intervals as Rahane was moving towards his half-century. Dhoni was cutting anything short and charged to Peterson. The 55-run partnership was going at a good rate before disaster struck.
Steyn was a man possessed. He had Dhoni caught behind by Smith as the Indian captain chase a half-volley outside off-stump. Jadeja fell for nought to Duminy in the next over as Jacques Kallis held his 200th Test catch.
Steyn then got Zaheer Khan as the edge flew to de Villiers and he took a magnificent catch. Stretching in the air, he held it with one hand as it was rising. That was Steyn’s fifth wicket and a good comeback after the Johannesburg game. Ishant Sharma entered the picture and hit a nice drive through the off-side for four before edging another to de Villiers to give Steyn his sixth.
Rahane was left stranded at one end. He did get to his fifty and farmed the strike to keep Mohammed Shami safe. Shami was ultimately dismissed by Morkel.
India 334 (Murali Vijay 97, Cheteshwar Pujara 70, Virat Kohli 46, Ajinya Rahane 51*; Dale Steyn 6 for 100, Morne Morkel 3 for 50) vs South Africa.
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