By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Dec 21, 2013
South Africa finished Day Four of the first Test against India at 138 for two. Chasing 458 to win the game, the hosts got off to a good start as their openers put up a 100-run stand. However, two wickets late in the day have given India a bit of momentum as they eye a victory on Day Five. Earlier in the day, the tourists were dismissed for 421.
India, starting the day at 284 for two, weren’t very free flowing today and their scoring rate was considerably slower than they were last evening. Cheteshwar Pujara did start off well and struck two boundaries of Steyn through the off-side. He showed good control and saw the ball through well. One was played through fine leg as he opened the face of the bat and then the next was clattered through the covers with typical disdain.
However, South Africa had opted for the new ball and there was more bounce and movement in store. There were a few deliveries that just climbed on the batsmen and a few kept low. Pujara moved to his 150 quite comfortably and it looked like they were building a platform before taking the attack to the bowlers.
Throughout the innings, Pujara had laced the off-side with authoritative strokes. He tried doing the same once Jacques Kallis came into the attack, but only managed an edge to the wicketkeeper. Pujara returned to the pavilion amidst applause as he had put India in a commanding position.
The focus later shifted to Virat Kohli as he neared his second ton of the game. He inched closer and on 96, he tried to shape back to JP Duminy and cut him through the vacant third-man region. However, he only managed to edge it and was dismissed agonisingly short of the milestone. The inconsistent bounce was on show earlier as Rohit Sharma was castled for six when a delivery from Kallis stayed low and bowled him.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni then joined Ajinkya Rahane. Together, they tried to up the ante with a few good strokes. The straight drives down the ground were good statements of intent as the Indian captain would have had one eye on the scoreboard to decide on the declaration.
Rahane was dismissed at the stroke of lunch as Duminy had him defending one. Instead, he edged it and was caught by Graeme Smith.
India started the afternoon session on 358 for six with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni eyeing the 400 mark as the target for South Africa. Although he lost Ravichandran Ashwin early, he continued to attack the bowling and picked a few boundaries. The intent was clear: India had to get quick runs and set a huge total.
In that regard, Zaheer Khan was an able partner for Dhoni as he too started throwing his bat around. Dhoni survived a caught behind shout to Vernon Philander, although there was a definite noise when the ball went past the bat. Philander had his revenge though when Dhoni smashed a ball down deep extra cover’s throat.
However, Zaheer continued to attack and essayed a few great shots. There were a few that took the edge and went behind square for four. On one occasion Imran Tahir was carted over covers for maximum and then he smashed Dale Steyn into the stands at long-off. Tahir though had his redemption as he dismissed Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami to finish India’s innings at 421.
There was a change in tactics from South Africa as Petersen took strike to Zaheer irst up. Zaheer almost had Smith again as he glanced one off his pads towards Virat Kohli at a catching short fine-leg. The ball went quite quickly to him and he couldn’t hold on. Petersen though looked in good touch and hit a few boundaries. He was in better shape and worked anything off his pads.
After tea, Petersen continued to stroke it well. He raced away to a fifty even as Smith was getting into his groove. Petersen batted confidently and was hitting the boundaries as well as picking the singles. Smith was troubled by Zaheer quite a lot and he nearly lobbed a catch back to him. In tandem, Petersen and Smith took South Africa past 100. Smith then tried a quick single off Ashwin and was run-out as Rahane threw the stumps down at the strikers end.
Amla walked in and was welcomed by a barrage of short deliveries. However, when Mohammed Shami bowled a short one and he ducked under it. The ball did not bounce a lot and went past’s Amla’s body and clattered into the stumps. Faf du Plessis then came in to bat as there were a few overs left. As the light was fading, India continued to bowl their overs. Dhoni and Murali Vijay also rolled their arms over. As AB de Villiers had bowled during the Indian innings, this became the first Test match where wicket-keepers from both sides bowled.
South Africa need another 320 runs to win the game.
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) lead 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 138 for 2 (Alviro Petersen 76*, Graeme Smith 44; Mohammed Shami 1 for 30) by 319 runs.
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