Mohammed Shami unleashed his second-innings beast under a searing Sunday sun and Ravindra Jadeja complemented that demolition act with one sizzling over as India cantered to a mammoth 203-run win over South Africa in the opening Test.
Making the ball talk in telling fashion on a typically sub-continent up and down fifth day track, Shami (5/35) rattled the timber of Temba Bavuma, skipper Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock in the morning session before returning in the afternoon to dismiss Dane Piedt and Kagiso Rabada. In between, Jadeja (4/87) took three wickets in one ripping over as India showed yet again why they are an indomitable force at home, dismissing South Africa for 191.
Although South Africa produced a dogged display to frustrate the Indians in the first innings, it was always going to be difficult to replicate that a day later on a track which necessitated immense application despite its flattish nature. India, with two world-class spinners in R Ashwin and Jadeja, and two seasoned pacers in Ishant Sharma and Shami, knew they had the resources to quell the Protean fire.
Ashwin, who bagged 7/145 in the first innings, gave India just the start they needed on the final day when Theunis de Bruyn chopped on a teasing tossed-up delivery onto his stumps in just the second over of the day. Ashwin joined the great Muttiah Muralitharan as the joint-fastest to 350 wickets in just his 66th Test.
Shami then took over the stage, dishing out a wonderful demonstration of fast bowling in conditions which weren’t exactly tailor made for fast bowling. A master in the second innings, Shami’s excellent use of seam and swing was a sight to behold. A fine exponent of reverse swing, he moved the ball both ways. Making the most of his skiddy action, Shami kept probing at the batsmen, who just couldn’t figure out which one to leave and which to play.
Shami first crashed through the defences of Bavuma, the young South African batsman outfoxed by a ball that kept low. He then got the big fish in Du Plessis with an absolute peach. Du Plessis shouldered arms once again to ball that pitched way outside the off-stump but this one swung in sharply, eliciting an expression of awe from the skipper himself. Shami then sent back de Kock with another fine delivery, ball straightening after pitching.
South Africa were reeling at 60/5 and it looked like they would be mopped up in quick time when Jadeja removed opener Markram, Philander and Maharaj in the 27th over. But Dane Piedt (56, 107b, 9×4, 1×6) and Senuran Muthuswamy (49 n.o., 108b, 5×4) refused to throw in the towel and frustrated the Indians with a gritty 91-run partnership for the ninth wicket.
The duo, batting with nothing to lose, alternated between attack and defence to stall India’s party. Ashwin and Jadeja, operating mostly during that session before lunch, kept tossing the ball in a hope that one mistimed shot would land in the fielder’s hand but to their dismay Muthuswamy and Piedt kept smacking it quite cleanly and confidently.
Kohli started with Ishant right after lunch but the duo handled him effectively too. The Indian skipper finally summoned Shami and the Bengal pacer instantly delivered, gleefully carrying out the final rites after orchestrating the downfall.
In just the first ball he dislodged Piedt, the right-hander attempting an expansive drive only to see the ball take an inside edge and crash onto his stumps. The Indians celebrated exuberantly, and the champagne, which waited in the ice for a long while, was finally uncorked when Shami got Rabada to edge one and keeper Wriddhiman Saha completed a regulation catch.