After an entire morning when rain and covers played hide-n-seek, finally the play started with a three hour delay on a murky, gloomy Durban day.
Match Report – South Africa vs India, 2nd Test, Day 2 , December 27 from Kingsmead, Durban
South African bowlers were ‘surprised’ by the brown strip of Durban, which could have come straight from subcontinent, gift-wrapped as a Boxing day present for the visitors. They did have a surprise gift of their own, Morne Morkel, who had made a remarkable recovery aided by oxygen chambers. Morkel, as it turned out, was the most threatening of the hosts. But an increasingly grumpy and lacklustre Steyn hurt their balance, as did yet another spinner who couldn’t quite play the warranted ‘holding role’ against, arguably the best players of spin.
Having lost nearly thirty overs last evening due to fading light, this morning was further bad news for those hoping to catch a glimpse of Kallis on his farewell test. Persistent drizzle played spoilsport all morning, and every time the groundsmen took away the covers seeing the rain relent, it almost mischievously opened the tap again. After three hours (and a complete washout of first session) the game resumed. The bowlers hoped to get a little more purchase from a damp pitch and heavy atmosphere, but quickly saw their hopes evaporate as both overnight batsmen hit a four each and moved along. But then, something stirred in Dale Steyn. Seventy overs (yes, you read that right!) of wicketless toil later suddenly South Africa’s spearhead clicked the higher gear which makes him the best paceman of this era. Pacing up at 140-145ks, and reversing the old ball, he first had Pujara edge behind. Vijay, nearing on a coveted century tried to play him out patiently, even copping some on his body. A fierce bouncer put paid to those hopes, his fend edging behind to DeVilliers. Then there was a first ball beauty to Rohit Sharma, uprooting his stump. Suddenly, from 198/1 India wobbled to 199/4. The hattrick ball was on Kohli’s pads, who whipped it to midwicket fence, but the morning had turned on its head.
Kallis came on in two short bursts from both ends, as did Peterson. Philander took the new ball ahead of Morkel and kept the lid on scoring as well. But it was Steyn, who was clearly leading the pack. Ajinkya Rahane was sconed twice in successive overs, once on the helmet and once on the shoulder, the ball not quite rising as high as expected and skidding on from short of good length. To his credit, when the length was even shorter, Rahane controlled his pull to pinch a four, before repeating the dose against an overpitched one. Kohli, at the other end was playing like a pleasing little innings, resisting but never stagnant and assured in his driving. Together, they put on another important fifty run stand after the strikes. Yet again, just as the partnership was blossoming and the pitch easing out under the baking sun, Kohli fended a short one drifting down the leg-side and DeVilliers pulled off a brilliant grab. India went to tea without further damage.
The post tea session kept up with the see-sawing fortunes of the game, with quick runs flowing for India. Rahane started it first, driving Peterson for four off the first ball of his over twice, before upper-cutting Morkel for another. Dhoni then cut Morkel twice through the vacant gully region for boundaries before he too punished Peterson for another four. Suddenly, a quick fifty run partnership off merely twelve overs had swung the balance again. Out came that man Steyn again (who else?), forcing Dhoni to edge behind as he chased one nipping away from off-stump, while his opposite number Smith safely pouched the nick. Jadeja fell in the next over to Duminy after a totally unconvincing stay and the hosts had clawed back yet again, to have their noses in front. His fifth came shortly afterwards, courtesy a moment of terrific athleticism from DeVilliers, who pouched a Zaheer top edge flying over him at high speed. A gorgeous cover driven boundary later Ishant became Steyn’s sixth victim, who ended his seventy over drought for wickets in spectacular fashion. India wound up for an under-par 334.
South Africa then came out and with a mix of good shots and fortituous edges raced paced thirty in a merely five overs. The introduction of Ishant Sharma slowed down things a touch.
India 334 (Vijay 97, Pujara 64, Steyn 6/100) vs South Africa 37/0
Player(s) of the Day: Dale Steyn
Disappointment(s) of the Day: TBD
Image credit: Guardian