Chasing 458 runs to win the first Test versus India at Johannesburg, South Africa managed to reach 138 for two at stumps on day four. At the Wanderers stadium, Alviro Petersen led their chase, with 76 runs off 148 balls (nine fours), after India were bowled out for 421 runs in their second innings, leaving the hosts a target of 458.
With 320 runs needed by South Africa and seven wickets needed by India (after Morne Morkel twisted his ankle on day three and it is doubtful if he will bat), this sets up an intriguing equation for the final day of this first Test.
South Africa started at 31 for none after the tea-break with skipper Graeme Smith keeping Petersen company. They batted in the same resolute manner that they did before tea, watching the incoming balls carefully and scoring runs whenever the bowlers strayed onto their pads. To the Indian bowlers’ credit, they bowled a lot better line than their counterparts managed all day. The trio of Zaheer Khan (0-29), Ishant Sharma (0-28) and Mohammad Shami (1-30) went past their bats on numerous occasions, unlucky to get a breakthrough in the first hour of play in the final session.
The two added 54 runs, with Petersen completing his half century in the 18th over. He contributed the majority of runs in this partnership worth 67 runs at that time, as Smith had only slowly built his innings. He was definitely more edgy of the two batsmen, with R Ashwin (0-40) nearly bowling him in the 23rd over and then Zaheer almost getting an edge in the 26th. Notably, Ashwin bowled 16 out of the 45 overs sent down, pointing to the fact that the pitch will perhaps aid spin more on the final day as cracks open up.
In the 30th over, they reached the 100-run mark with worrisome faces on the Indian team. But Ajinkya Rahane eased their tensions when he ran-out Smith with a direct hit in the next over. He scored 44 runs off 73 balls, with six boundaries. Ten runs later, their number three batsman, Hashim Amla (4) was out just like the first innings, out bowled leaving a delivery from Shami, when he should have been playing at it.
Faff du Plessis was sent ahead of Jacques Kallis, owing to his lack of runs. It became cloudy thereafter and the Indians tried every trick to keep the opposition batting, with Murali Vijay (0-3) and skipper MS Dhoni (0-4) coming on to bowl, as Virat Kohli kept wickets. Dhoni even kept wickets without his protective pads to hurry the overs in.
Earlier, Smith and Petersen carefully negotiated the opening salvo for an hour before tea. The former was nearly out in the 3rd over of the innings, playing Zaheer off his pads towards leg gully where Virat Kohli nearly held on to a tough chance, getting his fingers to the ball. He was on one run at that time.
In the morning session, Cheteshwar Pujara slammed 153 and Virat Kohli missed a second hundred in the match as India finished their second innings at 421 runs on day four. At the Wanderers stadium, the two batsmen put on 222 runs for the third wicket to set the hosts a daunting fourth innings’ target of 458 runs.
Their partnership for the third wicket with Kohli was the highest stand for third wicket in a Test match second innings overseas. They beat the long standing record of Vinoo Mankad and Vijay Hazare, 211 versus England at Lord’s in 1952.
Pujara (135 not out) and Kohli (77 not out) began the day, looking to further increase their third-wicket partnership of 191 runs. India started at 284 for two. The Proteas immediately took the new-ball when it became due and the run-scoring did slow down as a result, but the milestones never stopped.
The 300 for India, in this second innings, came in the 85th over, while Pujara completed his 150 two overs later. This was the fourth time in his 16-Test career so far that he had gone past this individual score in an innings. He looked good for a bigger one, but the need to get runs quickly meant that he played an uncharacteristic cut stroke off a Jacques Kallis delivery, which was close to his body.
He was out caught for 153, in the 92nd over. Kohli meanwhile carried on, even as Rohit Sharma (6) suffered another failure. He was bowled by Kallis in the 94th over, off an in-swinging delivery that stayed low. The big wicket for South Africa came when Kohli went on the backfoot for a cut off Duminy, in the 99th over of the innings, and was out caught behind. He was flustered with his dismissal, even so walked off to a standing ovation.
India led by 353 runs at that point in time, with skipper MS Dhoni joining Ajinkya Rahane to muster some quick runs later in the session. They added 31 runs for the sixth wicket. But Rahane (15) fell at the stroke of lunch, out caught at slip off JP Duminy, as India went to lunch with a hearty lead, placed at 358 for 6.
After lunch, Dhoni and Ashwin tried to increase the scoring rate, with the latter taking India past the 400-run lead mark with a four off Duminy in the 109th over of the innings. In the next over though, he was out caught at cover off Vernon Philander, for seven runs.
Dhoni started farming the strike thereafter, not sure how long the tail would last. In doing so, he gave away his wicket, trying to up the ante, caught in the deep off Philander again. He scored 29 runs off 44 balls, with three fours.
Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma then added 21 crucial runs for the ninth wicket, taking India past the 400-run mark in the 118th over. The tail-enders tried their best to give momentum to India in the dying stages of the innings. Zaheer smacked the first six of the Test in the 117th over of the innings and added another hitting Dale Steyn for one over long-off in the 120th over. He remained unbeaten on 29 runs off 31 balls with three fours and two sixes. In between, Ishant was trapped LBW by Imran Tahir (2-69), the leg-spinner picking his first wicket after enduring a painful bashing through the two innings. He later a second, bowling Mohammad Shami (4) and bringing India’s second innings to a close.
For South Africa, Vernon Philander (3-68) and Jacques Kallis (3-68) were the star bowlers, as Morne Morkel was rendered out of action after twisting his ankle on day three. Steyn (0-104) didn’t have a single wicket to show for in his 30 overs. Duminy picked up two for 87, while AB de Villiers (0-5) had bowled an over for fun just ahead of tea on day three.
On day one, Virat Kohli’s fifth Test hundred, 119 off 181 balls, had powered India to 280 in the first innings. On day two, South African skipper Graeme Smith scored 68 before a batting collapse reduced them to 213 for six. On day three, India took a 36-run lead after bowling out the Proteas for 244 runs in their first innings, after which Cheteshwar Pujara’s hundred ground their bowling down.
© Cricket World 2013