Early on Saturday, Zaheer Khan bent over and rubbed the ball against the thigh with all his might in an effort to make one side shiny. His flannels fluttered as the breeze blew across the ground. The sun was there but disappeared soon after.
It was a day to enjoy the game in the open stands, but not one India seamers were looking forward to. On a scuffed up wicket, the sun would have rather beaten down, making the players sweaty and the wicket bone dry, and not play hide and seek like it did.
Dale Steyn had made use of reverse swing in the hot and humid conditions to great effect on Friday and the Indians, after a rather ordinary start in the evening, when they patiently waited for the new ball to lose shine, were in for a shock on Saturday.
Of late, the Kingsmead has become famous for South Africa batting collapses. In the last three matches, they’ve had one horrid session and it looked the same in the first session when India picked up three wickets.
MS Dhoni brought in his main spinner Ravindra Jadeja early and the left-arm spinner struck by scalping Graeme Smith. He had two mid-wickets in place and forced Smith to go over and hole out to Shikhar Dhawan.
Soon, Mohammad Shami sent Hashim Amla back, rattling the stumps. Jadeja mixed his darting deliveries with the stock ones and one of them spun just a bit and caught the edge of Alviro Petersen’s bat.
South Africa were set for another collapse and with the ball 33-overs-old, reverse swing could have done the trick.
It didn’t as a determined Jacques Kallis, in his last Test, and the in-form AB de Villiers stuck it out for the Proteas. On the two-paced track, Kallis recalled his experience and De Villiers used his feet well.
Jadeja bowled a lot in the first part but the seamers weren’t as Dhoni hoped to trigger a collapse with spin at one end. The seamers eventually had to be brought in.
When Rohit Sharma came in with his off-breaks, it was clear that an additional offie could have been handy on this surface. But India have played just four bowlers and an additional batsman.
Jadeja strikes again
Jadeja was again in action when India needed a breakthrough. He made one bounce and catch the edge of De Villiers’ bat. The 127-run partnership that had helped South Africa recover was finally broken.
JP Duminy worked the ball around and also stitched a valuable 58-run partnership with Kallis. But just as they were taking the game away, Jadeja caught him plumb in front before rain interrupted.
Jadeja has taken four to notch up his second-best figures in Tests. There could be more on offer but the prized one will be that of Kallis.
"People have been saying that I pick wickets only at home. I want to prove that I can perform abroad too," said Jadeja.
With that on mind, Jadeja can be expected to spin some more magic.