Steyn goes great guns as Proteas restrict Indians

Steyn goes great guns as Proteas restrict Indians

The corrosive side of Dale Steyn that was conspicuous by its absence for a better part of this Test series surfaced in emphatic style on Friday, and that might just have given this match a fresh direction.

With rain robbing of three hours’ play in the morning session and Indian batsmen showing no signs of relenting their search for big runs, South Africa needed a spark to infuse an element of competition. Steyn provided that in a wonderful spell (5-0-19-3), that checked India’s surge, restricting them to 334 at the end of the second day. South Africa reached 82 for no loss in their first innings, trailing by 252 runs.

M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara began the day for India in a solid fashion, indicating a long haul for the South Africans on the field under a sun that beat down in all its glory. There were, of course, a couple of edges that kept dangerous proximity with the gully fielder, but those tricky moments didn’t waver the Indians’ concentration.

Hundreds were there for the taking for them, or so it seemed at that stage. Steyn had a rather shocking Test match at the Wanderers, going wicketless in 47 overs. The dull run seemed to spill over to this Test too as Steyn struggled to make an impact in the first 22.2 overs of this Test, making it a staggering 69.2 overs without wickets, the worst phase in Steyn’s career.

But he broke that barren period with the wicket of Pujara, and it was a lovely delivery too. After peppering him with a slew of short-pitched deliveries, Steyn pitched one on the corridor outside the off-stump. Pujara had to play that ball, and AB de Villiers neatly grabbed the resultant edge behind the stumps.

Two overs later, Steyn roared back in action. Vijay, who had showed immense amount of concentration till then, went for a half-hearted pull, and managed only a faint edge down the leg side to De Villiers. He was dismissed for 97, and would have to wait a little longer to script his first hundred away from home. Steyn followed up with that wicket with the dismissal of Rohit Sharma in the very next delivery. Rohit couldn’t judge the swing or bounce, and shouldered arms to a delivery that rattled his timber.

India started the day at 181 for one and suddenly they slipped to 199 for four in no time. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, who made his first Test fifty, an unbeaten 51, mounted a mini rescue act, adding 66 runs for the fifth wicket in 23.3 overs.

It temporarily arrested the slide, but Kohli’s attempt to glance Morne Morkel ended in his dismissal, feathering a glance to stumper De Villiers. India managed another half-century stand, 55 in 14.1 overs, through the sixth-wicket association between Rahane and skipper MS Dhoni.

That was also the time when Steyn was largely off the attack, catching some breath after another full-blooded effort. Indians scored at nearly four runs per over at this stage, raising the visions of a good rearguard action that would nullify the advantage South Africa procured through Steyn.

Sensing the ease of Indian batsmen, South African skipper Graeme Smith brought Steyn back into attack, and the move paid off instantly. Steyn, who grabbed a richly deserved five-wicket haul (6/100), tempted Dhoni with a series of outswingers, and eventually he snicked one to Smith at first slip.

It was the opening the South Africans were searching for, and they rushed through that creek to bundle out the late order batsmen. It was a magnificent effort from Steyn, who got almost no help from the pitch.

Jacques Kallis, who is playing his last Test match, crossed a personal milestone when he latched on to the catch to dismiss Ravindra Jadeja off Jean-Paul Duminy. It was Kallis’ 200th catch in Tests, and he is only the second cricketer to achieve that feat after Rahul Dravid.

India had lost their nine wickets for 153 runs on the day, and the South Africans seemed to have invigorated by that turnaround of fortune. Openers Smith and Alviro Petersen batted smoothly, except a couple of edges that whizzed past through the gaps, extending the upper hand.

But it all began with Steyn.

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