SA vs IND 1st Test: India hold nerves in thrilling draw
South Africa fell eight runs short of creating history in Test cricket, after a fantastic 5-day encounter against visitors India ended in an unexpected draw at the Wanderers, Johannesburg on Sunday.
Barring Virat Kohli (119) who scored his 5th Test ton and 1st against South Africa in South Africa, none of the batsmen seemed capable of facing the South African pace attack. The openers were set up by Morkel and Steyn, while Pujara was involved in an unfortunate run-out. Kohli though, held on from one end and kept India's scoreboard ticking. Ajinkya Rahane (47) showed great intent playing his first game in SA and supported Kohli well, but he was trapped by Vernon Philander (4/61), just 3 runs away from a deserving half-century. From an overnight score of 255/5 on Day 1, India were all-out for 280 in the 1st innings.
South Africa began confidently on Day 2 just before lunch, but fell prey to some fine bowling from Ishant Sharma, who ripped apart the top order that involved a first-ball duck from Jacques Kallis. Skipper Graeme Smith led with a composed half-century after being dropped off Zaheer Khan on 19. But Khan finally got him LBW on 68, robbing the Protea batsman of an opportunity to settle at the crease. Mohammad Shami dismissed AB de Villiers and JP Duminy, while Zak (4/88) and Ishant (4/79) kept it tight at the end to ensure India get a handy lead. The following day, South Africa were bowled out for 244.
With a 36-run lead on Day 3, India had the psychological advantage, and they topped it with a brilliant batting performance in tough overseas conditions. This time, it was Cheteshwar Pujara (153) who slammed a commendable hundred, setting up his team for a big 2nd innings total, alongside Kohli (96), who continued his superb from from the 1st innings. The duo were involved in a massive 222-run partnership for the 3rd wicket and India were marching towards a huge score. However, Kallis dismissed the set Pujara, while Kohli departed to Duminy just 4 runs short of his century. Kallis and Philander then ran through the rest of the batsmen and India were wrapped up for 421 in the 2nd innings post lunch on Day 4. South Africa needed 458 runs to win the 1st Test, with a day and half at their disposal.
In response, Petersen (77) and Smith (44) added 100 runs for the 1st wicket, and it looked like South Africa were comfortably placed in their chase. Just then, Rahane came up with a brilliant direct-hit that sent Smith back to the dressing room. Amla's misery continued, as he was bowled by a Shami delivery that kept really low. South Africa ended Day 4 on 138/2 with Petersen still at the crease. On the final day, the hosts needed 320 runs to win with 8 wickets in hand. Petersen went early, Kallis became Zak's 300th Test scalp, and what followed was a marathon 205-run stand between de Villiers (103) and Faf du Plessis (134). The Proteas suddenly sensed they could go on to win this. They were already past the 400-mark when India got the breakthrough in the form of de Villiers's wicket, perhaps a tad too late. Just as victory seemed imminent, Rahane got into the act once again hitting the stumps to send du Plessis packing. That was the turning point of the match.
With Morkel injured and Tahir the only batsman left, Philander and Steyn decided to shut shop even though a win was quite possible for the hosts, albeit a little risk. South Africa finished with 450/7, putting an end to one of the greatest Test matches of all time.
Both teams will now lock horns in the 2nd Test at Durban on Boxing Day, i.e, December 26.
Brief scores: India 280 (Kohli 119, Philander 4-61) and 421 (Pujara 153, Kohli 96) drew with South Africa 244 (Smith 68, Philander 59, Ishant 4-79, Zaheer 4-88) and 450 for 7 (Du Plessis 134, De Villiers 103)