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  Sports   Cricket  29 Jan 2018  Jo’burg win among best overseas

Jo’burg win among best overseas

THE ASIAN AGE. | AYAZ MEMON
Published : Jan 29, 2018, 1:25 am IST
Updated : Jan 29, 2018, 1:25 am IST

This was not without some irony, for the left-handed opener was at the centre of a storm that almost caused the Test to be called off.

Virat Kohli (Photo: AP)
 Virat Kohli (Photo: AP)

India’s triumph in the third Test against South Africa was among the best achieved overseas. It was a tough match played on a treacherous pitch and against heavy odds. The hardship quotient made victory even sweeter.

The series, of course, had been lost earlier, but pride had been redeemed. Yet, it was not till Shami, mojo suddenly regained, came on to strike repeated blows to in the last session on the fourth day did the outcome become clear.

 

For three hours earlier, the classy Amla and resilient Dean Elgar threatened to thwart India and complete a 3-0 whitewash. Once Shami exposed the tail by removing Philander, however, the end came swiftly leaving Elgar, who had fought tooth and nail, unconquered.

This was not without some irony, for the left-handed opener was at the centre of a storm that almost caused the Test to be called off.

The blow to his head on the third day prompted the umpires to suspend play, leaving not just the Indian team, but several experts and countless fans chagrined.

It can’t be anybody’s case that umpires should not have jurisdiction over play, or that safety of players should be glossed over. In fact safety has been paramount ever since the unfortunate accident that took Phil Hughes life, and one would expect umpires to be cautious.

 

The crux of the problem was the pitch. It was nasty. Variable bounce made it a threat — both technical and physical to batsmen. Cracks that started showing up from the first day itself made it even more difficult to play on.

Too often, touring teams visiting the sub-continent, especially India, complain of pitches ‘doctored’ to suit spinners. Obviously any team getting monumental advantage from extraneous factors is undesirable. But pitches that are a threat to life debilitate the very basis of sport.

At the Wanderers what was intriguing (infuriating to the Indian team and cricket aficionados) was that the umpires didn’t see the same pitch to be as dangerous when the Indian team — including the tail-enders —had batted on the same day, including the tail-enders!

 

This ‘different strokes for different folks’ by the umpires seemed palpably incongruous. Happily, the issue was resolved and play resumed next day, leading to a tingling climax.

Looking back, India’s bowlers were magnificent in picking up 60 wickets, putting South Africa batsmen under pressure throughout. Incidentally, for the first time ever, India took the field at Wanderers with five fast bowlers and without a spinner!

The success of Shami, Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and particularly debutant Bumrah augurs well for the future. All four have sharp pace and different skill sets. With series’s scheduled against England mid-year and Australia by end-2018, they have a major role to play

 

Unfortunately, it was only in the last Test that the batsmen showed some nerve and came good. This made a tangible difference to the result but also raised the question at what might have been had the batsmen shown similar fortitude earlier too.

That realisation will hurt. Even in a series played on nasty pitches and dominated by bowlers, batsmen could have done better.

But except in the last innings of the third Test match, the top order looked vulnerable — in technique and mindset.

The exception was Virat Kohli, easily the outstanding batsman on either side. He wasn’t cowed down by tough situations, playing with aplomb where others looked shaken and jittery.

 

In fact, when conditions got more difficult and tilted heavily in favour of bowlers, Kohli upped his game even more. Challenges clearly bring out the best in him, and he has the temerity to take them head on rather than find excuses.

Argue with him on technique, tantrums and tactics if you must, but I will aver Kohli is a great batsman and a bold captain, willing to take risks in pursuit of victory. Even in adversity, he led with aggression and authority.

Of course, a couple of selections were questionable. The gutsy Rahane gave a stern reminder in the third Test that he could have been included as least one match earlier.

And Bhuvneshwar’s omission from the second Test was inexplicable.

 

But Kohii’s desire to succeed is laudable. And contagious. Despite the loss of two Tests, he got the team to regroup quickly and fight back hard to win the third, not throw in the towel. He is a quick learner and can only get better.

Tags: india vs south africa, phil hughes