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South Africa and India play out a historic draw at Johannesburg

An epic stand between AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis nearly took South Africa to a historic victory as they chased 458 in the fourth innings © AFP
An epic stand between AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis nearly took South Africa to a historic victory as they chased 458 in the fourth innings © AFP

By Nishad Pai Vaidya


Dec 22, 2013


In what was one of the greatest Test matches ever, South Africa and India drew the first game. The game went down to the final over as South Africa were chasing 458, and an epic partnership between AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis got them within sight of victory. However, India hit back and as the sun set at Johannesburg, the South African tail saw it out to its eventual result.


On a what looked like a good batting track, India elected to bat. They opted to play Ajinkya Rahane instead of the all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. It was quite interesting that South Africa fielded Imran Tahir, the leg-spinner instead of a fourth seam bowler.


The South African pacers tested the Indians early on Day One and dismissed the openers quickly. It was then that the new No 4 Virat Kohli came to the centre. While Cheteshwar Pujara quietly went about his job, Kohli was attacking and essayed good strokes. He dealt with the short deliveries well and pulled them around the corner with conviction. The partnership rescued India from early trouble, but Pujara was run-out due to an unfortunate mix-up.


Kohli lost Rohit Sharma early, but found an able partner in Rahane. Kohli attacked the bowling and sped away to his ton. It was a landmark, for it was his maiden innings at No 4 after the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. At 119, he played a loose shot and was caught in the covers. India finished Day One on 255 for five.


Early on Day Two, Vernon Philander was a man on song and troubled the Indian lower order with his movement and guile. His figures of four for 61 ensured that India did not add too much to their overnight score. This just showed how important the morning session was in context of the Test match. Over the course of the following days, one could see wickets fall in the morning.


South Africa lost Alviro Petersen early in their first innings, but Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith resisted India. The battle between Smith and Zaheer Khan was intriguing as the comeback man troubled his treasured scalp. Smith was dropped by Ravichandran Ashwin at first slip early in the innings as he edged one by chasing it. Amla survived a barrage of short ones and settled in as Smith moved to a fifty.


Then game the game changing spell. Off consecutive deliveries, Ishant Sharma dismissed Amla and Jacques Kallis. Amla left one that came into him and it clattered into the stumps. Kallis was trapped leg-before as he failed to get his front-foot forward to an over-pitched delivery. Zaheer then had Smith again as he played all-over an incoming delivery and was hit on the pads. Later, Mohammed Shami had JP Duminy caught in the slips and trapped de Villiers leg-before. From 130 for one, the hosts had slipped to 146 for six.


Philander and du Plessis went about the recovery job and added a fighting stand as the former completed his fifty. However, early on Day Three, India hit back and bundled the South Africans for 244.


India started their innings with a slender lead of 36. Shikhar Dhawan fell early and Murali Vijay fought hard along with Pujara. Once he was dismissed for a gritty 39, Pujara and Kohli took control.


Pujara started cautiously, but in the final session of Day Three, he seized control and smashed 96 runs. In the process he got to his ton and authoritatively smashed the bowling. Kohli also reached his fifty, but Pujara stole the limelight. Tahir was punished at the hint of every opportunity, although the leg-spinner did drop Pujara when he was on 52. Anything short and wide from the seamers was carted through the off-side with disdain.


India finished Day Three at a commanding 284 for two and led by 320 runs.On Day Four, South Africa took quick wickets to restrict India’s charge. Pujara did complete his 150 and was then dismissed for 153. Kohli came agonisingly close to his second ton of the game as he edged one into de Villiers’s gloves on 96. Some hitting from Zaheer Khan and MS Dhoni took India to 421, which left the hosts with 458 to get in the last innings.


South Africa began their pursuit positively with Petersen in good control. He was more positive and stroked boundaries with ease. Smith had his problems to Zaheer but managed to survive. They got South Africa past 100 and Petersen recorded his fifty. Soon after, Smith tried to get a quick single through mid-on, but a direct hit from Rahane saw him short. A few overs later, Amla ducked to a short one from Shami and it smashed into his stumps. Du Plessis walked in place of Kallis at No 4 as South Africa finished Day Four on 138 for two.


Come Day Five, there was magic in store for South Africa. While they lost Petersen early, Kallis came out a man changed as he laced the park with crunchy drives. Zaheer then pitched one up and  hit his pads. Despite a big inside edge, the umpire ruled him out and Kallis had to walk back for 34.


But, in came de Villiers and in partnership with du Plessis scripted all the magic; writing their name in history. Starting the afternoon session with 222 runs needed, South Africa continued to play very positively. Both batsmen dispatched the bad deliveries and left the widish deliveries. India rushed through the first six overs after lunch as the new ball was in the horizon. Once Shami and Zaheer started off with the new ball, they were getting movement and there was some inconsistent bounce. Both de Villiers and du Plessis had deliveries that climbed on them and the edges went over the slip cordon and landed in no man’s land.


As the session progressed, du Plessis and de Villiers looked more and more in control. Du Plessis got to his fifty by pulling Shami through  square-leg on and later de Villiers also got to his mark in much quicker time. The gap between gully and third-slip so many runs leak as the edges went along the ground and into the boundaries. However, they were largely in control and  essayed good strokes to the boundary.


There weren’t too many chances as such although a direct hit was missed with du Plessis diving for his life. A few leading edges also fell short of the fielders. De Villiers and du Plessis kept adding the singles to the South African tally and found it easier as the field spread a touch.


Post tea, du Plessis and de Villiers continued from where they left off in the morning session. It was quite bizarre that Zaheer bowled unchanged after tea for about an hour and was picked away quite easily. He gave the batsmen width on many occasions and was smashed through the off-side. Ashwin and Ishant also bowled in the first hour with the South African duo going about it very easily. Both reached their tons and took South Africa past the 400 mark. However, soon after, de Villiers dragged one back onto his stumps and had to walk back for a magnificent 103. Duminy was dismissed in the next over and with a little over 50 to go, the game now looked open.


With 10 overs to go, South Africa needed 47 runs with Philander and du Plessis out there. It was Philander who went for the runs and then du Plessis was more defensive. And, then in an anti-climatic end, du Plessis was run-out as he tried a desperate single. At that stage, South Africa needed 16 off three overs. Shami then bowled a maiden to Steyn.They then saw it through the end as the singles were not taken and South Africa finished eight runs short of what could have been the highest run-chase in the history of Test cricket.


Brief scores:


India 280 (Virat Kohli 119, Ajinkya Rahane 47; Vernon Philander 4 for 61, Morne Morkel 3 for 34) and 421 (Cheteshwar Pujara 153, Virat Kohli 96; Vernon Philander 3 for 68, Jacques Kallis 3 for 68, JP Duminy 2 for 87) drew with South Africa  244 (Graeme Smith 68, Vernon Philander 59; Zaheer Khan 4 for 88, Ishant Sharma 4 for 79, Mohammed Shami 2 for 48) and 450 for 7 (Alviro Petersen 76, Faf du Plessis 134, AB de Villiers 103; Zaheer Khan 1 for 135, Ishant Sharma 1 for 91, Mohammed Shami 3 for 107).


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