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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

India vs South Africa: Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav put hosts on brink of series whitewash

Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav claimed five wickets between them Monday to put India on the brink of a series whitewash after South Africa crumbled while following-on in the third Test.

cricket Updated: Oct 21, 2019 20:24 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Ranchi: Indian bowler Mohammed Shami celebrates with teammate Rohit Sharma.
Ranchi: Indian bowler Mohammed Shami celebrates with teammate Rohit Sharma.(PTI)
         

Faf du Plessis held his forward defensive pose, perhaps trying to work out in his mind what he hadn’t done right to the first ball he faced on Monday. The South Africa captain had played to the line of Umesh Yadav’s delivery, or thought he had, and yet the ball had beaten the outside of the bat and shaved off-stump. The experience of 60 Tests had told du Plessis that the delivery would come in after pitching on good length but it hadn’t, leaving him gobsmacked.

Four deliveries into the third day of the final Test at the JSCA International Stadium Complex here—two of them leaking runs on the leg side—Yadav had produced a ball that burned into the minds of those who had deigned to fill some seats on a gloomy morning.

The next three South African batsmen fell to left-arm spinners with debutant Shahbaz Nadeem getting his first Test wicket before conceding a run. Mohammed Shami struck in the first over after lunch and a run out followed as South Africa, in what has been the story of the Freedom Series, caved in.

They followed on after being dismissed for 162 in 56.2 overs. South Africa were 16/3 in the first innings and 18/3 in the second, the collapse in their final innings even more spectacular. With South Africa on 132/8 at stumps, India are two wickets away from a 3-0 sweep.

“To have been almost bowled out twice in a day has been pretty poor,” said Zubayr Hamza, who top-scored with 62 in the first innings.

Yadav no longer wears a man bun and is much more than the tearaway quick who once knocked out Ricky Ponting’s middle stump. But since he played his first Test in November 2011, Yadav has played only 43 more, six of the last 19 including this. As India grew into an all-weather attack so strong on pace that it could bowl out South Africa in South Africa six times in three Tests, Yadav wasn’t Virat Kohli’s go-to fast bowler.

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He is part of this series only because Jasprit Bumrah is not. But the slide down the pecking order hasn’t dented Yadav’s self-belief. The confidence that made him menacing on a shirtfront against Bangladesh in Hyderabad in 2017 and again at the same venue last year against West Indies. Yadav’s 6/88 against West Indies was his first five-wicket haul since January 2012. He is still looking for his third.

Used in short spells, Yadav took 3/40 in the first innings and has taken 2/35 so far in the second. The length he hit and the ability to get the new ball to move in or straighten after pitching led to du Plessis and, in the second innings, Quinton de Kock playing inside the line and having their furniture disturbed. Heinrich Klaasen’s second innings dismissal was different—he fell to one from Yadav that hit his back pad.

Yadav’s direct hit ran out Kagiso Rabada. In the first innings, he ended George Linde’s fight, the debutant’s expansive drive pouched by Rohit Sharma at second slip. In the second, Dean Elgar retired hurt ducking into Yadav’s bouncer leading to tea being called early and Theunis de Bruyn coming on as a concussion substitute. You just couldn’t keep him out of the action.

In terms of the magic, that ball from Nadeem to dismiss Temba Bavuma would be second to Yadav’s. On his home ground, Nadeem drew out Bavuma with one that pitched on middle and leg and turned, the combination of flight and spin leaving the South African stranded.

By his exalted standards, Wriddhiman Saha, replaced by Rishabh Pant in the final session after an injury, was having an ordinary day behind the wickets. He dropped Linde later, off Nadeem, on 21 but Bavuma’s stumping he executed to perfection. Three deliveries earlier, Jadeja had ended a 91-run fourth-wicket stand when Hamza fell after his maiden half-century, trying to play square off the backfoot to an arm ball.

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From 107/3, South Africa were 107/5. Like India, they had lost three wickets early and had stitched a fourth-wicket stand. That is where similarities ended because to a team in transition India’s bowlers gave a lesson in accuracy and attacking lines.

Shami chiselled the corridor outside off-stump, often tempting batsmen to drive—Bavuma fell for it in the second innings. He snared du Plessis with a ball that came in and bowled Hamza with one that straightened.

India’s spinners had greater guile and extracted more purchase than South Africa. A swarm of fielders around the bat, including at times silly point and silly mid-off, and overs ending quickly meant the pressure was unremitting.

“Relentless” and “disciplined” were terms Hamza used more than once to describe India’s bowling. “With the new ball they made us play more and our defence wasn’t good enough. Maybe we should have prepared more mentally when it came to playing them,” he said.

Often used in tandem, Jadeja and Nadeem were an exhibition of different versions of left-arm orthodox spin bowling. Jadeja was flatter, quicker and would push batsmen on the back foot. Nadeem relied more on drift and turn to draw them out.

Nadeem and Linde were playing their first Test but proof of how thin on experience South Africa are lay in the welter of first-class games the Indian had played and against better players of spin.

If you had to nit-pick, it would be Ravichandran Ashwin taking only one of the 16 wickets that fell on Monday. Rabada trying to heave Ashwin leading to the first full day of play being extended, however, summed up everything that has been wrong with South Africa on this trip.