India-SA 2nd Test: after the high, it’s a fight to the finish | india | Hindustan Times
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India-SA 2nd Test: after the high, it’s a fight to the finish

india Updated: Dec 30, 2013 01:07 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times

India fielding coach Trevor Penney’s initial reaction was disbelief when Faf du Plessis fell on his back after holding on to a ball that flew off Shikhar Dhawan’s bat late on Sunday. “That was stunning,” said Penney after the game.

Faf’s catch, like his century at the Wanderers last week, has raised South Africa’s hopes of a victory in a rain-interrupted Test as India face the task of batting out the entire fifth day to be able to leave the shores with their heads held high.

Finishing in style

The day belonged to Jacques Kallis and the image of his raised bat will be framed in many living rooms. But somewhere also lurked the image of MS Dhoni standing with Cheteshwar Pujara at one end of the wicket while the entire team had bunched around Zaheer Khan after he had scalped half-centurion Robin Peterson.

Wonder what the India skipper was telling his ace batsman. A guess would be to bat for his life. The India bowlers left a tough task for the batsmen. After doing well at the Wanderers, before slipping up in the second essay, the pacers were ineffective on a wicket that seemed least supportive.

Defensive or logical

The ball was old when the day began and Dhoni showed no urgency to change it until the umpire intervened after 146 overs. They had to do it as the seam had come off.

Tough to guess what prompted Dhoni to do it but Peterson, one of the stars for South Africa, felt that a soft ball was tougher to hit as compared to the new one.

Penney said the old ball offered more options and they wanted to exploit them. One of them was reverse swing but the overcast conditions probably restricted its use.

Dhoni’s tactic may have been right but it didn’t work out. The old ball flew off the bat as quickly as the new one.

Overnight batsman Dale Steyn had the license to kill and he went after the bowlers. There were plenty of edges but all of them were out of reach and soon South Africa had wiped off the deficit.

Kallis showed no nerves during his century, and by the time the two were separated, the hosts had a 53-run lead. In the next 18 overs, they plundered 110 runs and by the time Dhoni took the new ball, India had their backs to the wall.

The visitors were hit further when Steyn & Co got lift and swing from the pitch. Philander scalped Murali Vijay, and from then on it was a battle for survival for this young side.