Test matches rarely have a thrilling finish in the world Cricket, but exceptions are always there and such a game was witnessed between South Africa and India that turned out to be a cynosure for all fans on the last day of unlimited-over game on December 22.
The game was played at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, where hosts were deemed favourites, especially in view of their outstanding record at home. But how did the table turn in the end left many spectators and fans in a hysteria; with a fragment of them accusing South Africa of displaying ‘suspicious’ performance in the end, while some called it a ‘luck factor’ that favoured India and the game ended up in a draw. Yet, it was a test Cricket that seemed to be regaining its losing vigour after a long, long time!
India, on the other side, was (perhaps) playing for its pride restoration after having lost the ODI series to SA, some days before the test series.
Nobody knew that India was going to surprise the World No.1 side with its gallanting batting display, as they often do in their home conditions.
Both the teams have played 10 test matches against each other, with South Africa winning five of them, India two and the remaining three were drawn. Let me add here that India have not won a test series in South Africa. They bagged both of their triumphs on their home soil.
The guests scored a decent 280 runs in their first innings, with Virat Kohli scoring a superb 119 run knock off 181 balls after surviving all the quicks like Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
The beauty of the match was its unpredictability as nobody could envisage which way the game was heading, especially when SA batsmen were all out on 244 in their first innings, leaving behind a trail of 36 runs. Interestingly, the same day Pakistan was playing against Sri Lanka in an ODI, but most of the Pakistani fans had their sights on the other game, just as it had entered a riveting phase.
Contrary to expectations, Indian batsmen sprang into great action in the second innings and set a massive target of 458-run. But this time it was Chiteshwar Pujara who added 153 runs, assisted by, yet another time, Virat Kohli who scored 96. Their 222-run stand brought India in a position that nobody had even thought – beating Proteas on their homeland!
SA, in response, started fluently to the chase of 458 runs and openers provided a century stand but wickets started to fall soon after it. The partnership of 203 runs between A.B. De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis provided their team a miraculous escape on the last day when it was believed that Indian bowlers will demolish the entire batting, but the set pair of SA survived both the sessions, leaving Indian team in a disarray.
The unfortunate run-out of Faf at 134 was a turning point that forced South Africa to the back-foot and thence they preferred to go for a draw with 8 runs to spare, fearing defeat or lacking confidence in their lower order, despite the presence of Vernon Philander who was well set at the crease and in complete command. They needed 16 runs off 20 balls for a historic win, but they found their moral victory in a draw. Did SA need to go on a defensive mode? Should it be a trait for World No. 1 side? Undoubtedly SA deserves credit for its wonderful fightback in the game, but their defensiveness neutralized all the hard work of A.B. and Faf. Many viewers, obviously not the Indians, after match ended up saying “If only South Africa could make a history”.