Cape Town cheers the rain of wickets as South Africa crush India in Dale Steyn’s comeback Test
Faf du Plessis won the toss at Newlands and elected to bat on a pitch that had some grass on it. This was a surprising decision because he had at his disposal four of the best bowlers in the world. He could have unleashed havoc on the Indian batsmen right in the first session of the series. But he chose otherwise. On the other hand, the Indian team would have been ecstatic and relieved that they didn’t have to face the music yet.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar grabbed the opportunity with both hands and bowled beautifully to reduce South Africa to 12/3. South Africa were in trouble and du Plessis would have been regretting his decision. But all that changed in a single over of scintillating batting by AB de Villiers. du Plessis, who was batting at the other end, had the best view of this classy knock. But he wasn’t a mere spectator to this. He played his role and scored a vital 62. More importantly, he forged a game-changing partnership of 114 runs with de Villiers.
Apart from de Villiers, du Plessis, and Quinton de Kock, not a single batsman looked compact or composed. ABD, as he is fondly called, went a step further and did only what he can do. He counter-attacked in what was a breathtaking display of batsmanship of the highest order. He did this even though South Africa were 12/3. In doing so, he put to rest all the doubts as to who the world’s best batsman is and how futile it is to even compare anybody to him. He showed the world how to bat in difficult conditions. The Indian players were mere spectators watching an exhibition of supreme batting on a pitch that offered something to the bowlers.
Virat Kohli, who is a big fan of de Villiers himself, must have been in awe, watching him bat. Millions across the globe were!
ABD scored a quick 65 before becoming Jasprit Bumrah’s maiden Test wicket. A wicket that Bumrah will cherish forever. The wicket of the world’s best batsman. de Kock then scored a quickfire 43 off 40 balls. The tail wagged a bit and South Africa were bowled out for 286 in the 1st innings of the match. They scored at an alarming rate in a Test match where wickets were falling at an alarming rate.
India, meanwhile, were reduced to 28/3 at the end of day 1. The batsmen were hopping around. Dhawan was beaten for pace by Dale Steyn, his first wicket since November 2016. Virat Kohli was dismissed by a snorter of a delivery from Morkel. Vijay nicked off to Philander.
The pitch eased out on day 2, but not the bowling. The South African attack was relentless. Rohit Sharma was out lbw, beaten for pace by Rabada. Saha got a trademark fast reverse swinging ball from Steyn and was given lbw. India were soon reduced to 92/7. South Africa were looking at a sizeable lead of around 180. But Hardik Pandya was dropped on 15 by Dean Elgar off the bowling of Steyn. To make matters worse, he got injured and left the field and didn’t bowl in the whole match. Later on, de Kock missed a stumping chance of Pandya, who went on to score a quick 93 off 95 balls. India were bowled out for 209, conceding a lead of 77 runs to the Proteas.
South Africa came out to bat again and Markram played some lovely shots before getting out for 34. South Africa were 65/2 at the end of day 2.
Day 3 was lost to rain. But the game had moved at such an alarming pace that time was never going to be an issue. The rain would make batting even more difficult for the South Africans in the 1st session on day 4.
Hashim Amla fell early on day 4 and the floodgates opened. de Villiers scored 35 and watched wickets tumble at the other end. He had no support this time from any of the batsmen as South Africa were knocked over for 130 in their 2nd innings. India needed just 208 runs to win and did not have to face Steyn, the best bowler in the world. But the South African attack was ruthless even without him.
Dhawan was bounced out by a snorter from Morkel, who was in the mood to provide some sweet chin music to the Indian batsmen. Vijay was again teased into a shot by Philander. Pujara got a jaffa from Morkel. Kohli was beautifully set up by Philander. Rohit Sharma was roughed up by a nasty bouncer from Rabada. Beaten for pace and bounce, he top-edged it but was dropped by Keshav Maharaj only for him to play on soon after. Saha and Pandya were done in by the pace and movement of Rabada. Philander ended with figures of 6/42. The South African pace attack was too hot for India as they were routed for 135 in their 2nd innings. South Africa won the match by 72 runs on day 4.