India vs South Africa, 3rd Test: IND beat SA by 63 runs, prevent series sweep

Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah sparked a dramatic collapse as Indian cricket team beat South Africa cricket team by 63 runs on the fourth day of the third and final Freedom Series Test at the Wanderers Stadium on Saturday.

cricket Updated: Jan 27, 2018 23:25 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India,Hashim Amla
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli celebrates with teammates after winning the third Test against South Africa cricket team at Wanderers cricket ground in Johannesburg on Saturday. (AFP)

For a moment, let’s forget India lost the series a week back. Let’s also not start about how India may have got their selection wrong at Newlands and Centurion. This victory at the reverberating Bullring --- the coliseum of South African cricket --- should be celebrated and cherished in isolation. This is India in an avatar fans have been dreaming of for a long time. (SOUTH AFRICA vs INDIA 3rd TEST DAY 4 HIGHLIGHTS)

Engineering this turnaround wasn’t easy. India had to overcome odds their predecessors wouldn’t have dared to dream --- a treacherous pitch where they elected to bat, weathering blows inflicted by a seriously quick five-man pace attack, an indomitable Hashim Amla and a talismanic innings from Dean Elgar. No more will they be called flat-track bullies. No longer will they be called spineless. (SOUTH AFRICA vs INDIA 3rd TEST DAY 4 SCOREBOARD)

Thank Virat Kohli though for this streak of the team. He kept pushing his bowlers, urged fielders to be on their toes and kept the focus tight despite a partisan crowd and news of big IPL buys filtering in from the auction in Bangalore. Once they had got through the defence of Amla, India knew they were in with a chance of winning.

Thank Kohli again for that dismissal. Amla was shuffling across his stumps throughout the series, perhaps more in this Test. Kohli finally put an end to it by parking Hardik Pandya at short midwicket and asking Delhi mate Ishant Sharma to induce another flick. Before that Amla had stitched 119 runs with Elgar, the third time in this series that South Africa had a partnership of hundred runs or more.

It was a partnership that had the potential to deny India their third win in South Africa. Amla was graceful in attack and defence even though India’s seamers gave him a hard time, even knocking him on his fingers. But Elgar was South Africa’s main hope. To stay alive on this surface, South Africa needed someone to stand strong like Murali Vijay had done in the second innings. Through 73.3 overs, Elgar did just that.

He fronted up to a brutal onslaught of bouncers and length bowling from India, especially Bumrah, but there were times he looked aggressive as well. The pitch was holding up well too. With overnight rain pushing back the start by an hour, the pitch was expected to do bizarre things. It didn’t, allowing Amla and Elgar to at least settle down into a defensive rhythm.

But the problem with such a pitch is that the new batsman won’t have as much time to assess the pitch. Even a batsman of the caliber of AB de Villiers had to knuckle down. He couldn’t, giving Ajinkya catch practice at gully. Faf du Plessis did it at Centurion but this time Ishant got the better of him with an off-cutter. That was the most crucial wicket for India.

Elgar was still waging a battle from the other end but India knew he was running out of partners. Quinton de Kock’s inability to switch off the one-day mode doomed him when Bumrah struck him plumb. And then Mohammed Shami came in to mop up the tail, bowling full and fast. It was clinical stuff that you don’t usually expect from a team that was 2-0 down. That makes them special. If this team goes on to achieve great things in future, they know this was where it had all started.

First Published: Jan 27, 2018 16:36 IST