“India and South Africa both came tantalizingly close to creating history before settling for a breathtaking draw in the first cricket Test at the New Wanderers Stadium — in the end, India fell three wickets and South Africa eight runs short of victory”
So, what do you want to watch?
Some cheer-girls-oriented circus or a game where quality is being ensured in each session?
A sensible cricket fan will choose quality over some circus show and in Test cricket you are sure to relish quality cricket.
What a Test match it had been at Johannesburg!
India and South Africa both came tantalizingly close to creating history before settling for a breathtaking draw in the first cricket Test at the New Wanderers Stadium — in the end, India fell three wickets and South Africa eight runs short of victory.
South Africa had to survive on a testing track and against an attack that were beaming with confidence.
The morning session witnessed the fall of two South African wickets and the script was supposed to go according to what everyone expected – an Indian win!
Still, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis were out there and as time progressed they transformed into batting gods!
The memories of the Adelaide Test match of 2012 revisited at the Wanderers.
At the start of the fifth day, South Africa needed 320 with eight wickets in hand, and a draw was their more realistic goal.
It began with de Villiers and du Plessis at the crease, both having scored a hundred and South Africa needing 66 off 15 overs to win.
But then there was an Indian fight back into contention by removing both and JP Duminy in the next 12 overs, before it all ended with Philander and Steyn choosing safety first despite how close South Africa were!
Du Plessis and de Villiers batted together for a minute short of four hours and faced 375 balls to take South Africa from 197 for 4 – when they still needed 261 runs to win – to be in sight of victory.
They showed immense patience and composure on a pitch with variable bounce and sizeable cracks, that frustrated the Indian attack who tried everything to push for a victory.
Their first 50 runs were scored mostly while on the defensive. They took 115 balls and 40% of the runs came in singles to usher South Africa past lunch and towards the second new ball. Seventeen minutes into the second session, the new nut became available and MS Dhoni was ready to play his next hand.
Zaheer and Shami went searching for wickets and found movement but not success. Du Plessis was the first to bring up his 50, off 142 balls, when he pulled Shami through deep square leg.
AB de Villiers followed suit, but not before Ishant had induced the edge from both batsmen.
The pitch played its part as well, as balls landing on the cracks reared off a length to put the batsmen in considerable discomfort, often looping over the slip cordon.
Both de Villiers and du Plessis had to counter balls striking the shoulders of their bats, pushed those alarming moments in the backs of their minds and steadily pushed South Africa forward.
With that good fortune and plenty of fortitude, the partnership’s second 50 was scored in just 85 balls and the batsmen’s belief had grown.
Dhoni tried to suffocate, but Du Plessis and de Villiers squeezed the singles, found boundaries when the seamers occasionally veered off their probing wicket to wicket lines.
By tea, they had reached 331 for 4 and still needed 127 runs to win.
The ball was leaping off the pitch, but all the edges have either fallen short or sailed over the slip cordon. Despite all that, Faf du Plessis, – defied the pain of a dodgy thumb – and AB de Villiers had dished out the highest level of resolve. If any session had shifted the momentum towards the Proteas then it was that second session where survival was not an easy task. Fortune favours the brave.
After the drinks break, for two overs, du Plessis and de Villiers kept them on track. Against the run of play, de Villiers chopped one on from a back of a length Ishant Sharma delivery.
JP Duminy came at the crease and took a single to keep strike at the end of the over, drilled a straight drive for four off the first ball of the next but three deliveries after that, he also played on. Duminy was attempting an expansive cover drive and his demise was scripted.
Vernon Philander and du Plessis kept South Africa in it with a partnership of 35 off 49 balls. Their stand was filled with tension as Mohammed Shami and Ishant continued to test them with deliveries that jagged back in or rose from a length. When they offered anything short and wide, the result was a boundary.
With four overs left, the pendulum had swung South Africa’s way – they needed 20 runs.
They got four of those when du Plessis flayed Zaheer through midwicket.
Two balls later, du Plessis called for a run after hitting straight to mid-off.
Ajinkya Rahane’s direct hit found du Plessis, exhausted after the amount of time he had spent at the crease, well short of his ground.
Dale Steyn joined Philander, Morkel and Imran Tahir were padded up but their services were not needed.
Shami bowled an over of short balls to Steyn, which he made no contact with to leave South Africa needing 16 off the last two overs.
Philander blocked out the penultimate over and Steyn left the first two balls of the last over, to leave South Africa needing boundaries off the last four balls. Steyn slogged the third ball but missed and took a bye, Philander heaved at the next and missed before getting a single and then Steyn smashed the final delivery into the stands over long-on but it meant nothing.
There might be a school of thought that Dhoni had over bowled Zaheer, but to counter that one might reply when no options are working then either innovate or rely on your main strike bowler. Dhoni was going for the latter and a draw was the ideal result because that is what Test cricket is all about. If you cannot appreciate a draw, then the best format of the game is not for you.