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How India lost grip of Newlands Test

Thursday, January 06, 2022
Shirin Sadikot
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Team India walked at the Newlands on the fourth Morning with a slight edge over the hosts, who were 50 runs ahead with eight wickets in hand. Harbhajan Singh, by exploiting the roughs created by the bowlers’ footmarks, put them in the driver’s seat with early wickets of Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla, leaving South Africa with 64 for 4.


Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher: The nicest of men yet the toughest of fighters. © AFP

Zaheer Khan, although visibly fatigued, continued to push himself to bowl one more ball with all he had. Though the usual wickedness was missing, he deceived AB de Villiers with a late in-swinger to ensure half of the Proteas side was down under 100 runs. In the third over post-lunch, Prince gift-wrapped his wicket to Ishant. South Africa: 130 for 6.

At the crease were Jacques Kallis, who had come out to play with an aching rib, and Mark Boucher, who had not gone past 50 in his last 13 innings. In the circumstance when ‘relentless attack’ should’ve been the sole motto of the fielding team, the Indians let it all slip out of their hands.

Ishant’s waywardness enabled the under-pressure Boucher to ease himself in with a couple of glances down the vacant fine-leg region and a thumping cover-drive. Boucher was now a confident man and ready to weather the storm with Kallis.

MS Dhoni, on his part, did everything he could to facilitate their cause by way of field placements. The empty third-slip and gully areas and the absence of leg-slip enabled Kallis to literally sweep his team out of trouble against India’s biggest potential wicket-taking bowler in those conditions, Harbhajan. And as a faithful subordinate to his skipper, Ishant, for once, showed some consistency, as he held on to that hit-me leg-stump line.

Sreesanth, on the day, was India’s best pacer in terms of discipline but was guilty of not making the batsmen play at enough deliveries. As is well known of him, Sreesanth kept trying all the tricks under his sleeves – banging it short, pitching it full in the middle, teasing them with an off-stump line. But no hint of support from the other end meant Sreesanth had to be content with the tiny moral victories of beating the batsmen once in a while and sulk as his lbw appeals were turned down. The line got awry, the shoulders drooped and runs became easier to come by.

The only good thing about India’s listless bowling and fielding, if there could ever be one, was, it helped two long-time close mates and South Africa’s legends join hands to script a 103-run partnership which would decide the fate of an enthralling series. That said, it is not intended to take any credit away from the two men who were the epitome of fighting spirit, endurance, talent and experience during their stay at the wicket.

Kallis was a colossus. He achieved, with a broken rib, what a fully fit top-class batsman would dream of. His 40th Test century made him the first South African to score two tons in a Test at home. As for Boucher, his 82-ball knock of 55 runs will, perhaps, play as defining a role in determining the future of his own career as it will to the result of the Test. More than anything else, what that effort emphasized is that you can be the nicest man on earth and still be the toughest fighter.

Shirin Sadikot is the sub-editor at Cricket Nirvana

 


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