Dominant SA push for win

Dominant SA push for win

It’s a dream of every batsman to score a hundred in his last Test and leave the stage on a high. Not many manage to do that, but Jacques Kallis scripted that fairytale ending on the fourth day of the second Test here on Sunday.

The 115 that also propelled Kallis to third in the list of all-time run-getters in Tests formed the foundation for South Africa’s second innings score of 500, an overall lead of 166. India reached 68 for two in their second dig, leaving them to battle another day to earn a draw.

Once South Africa resumed from their overnight 299 for five, the immediate priority was to eliminate the possibility of defeat. Kallis and night watchman Dale Steyn, added 86 runs in 30.1 overs, thwarting the ambitions of Indians of some early wickets.

The run-scoring process in the first session belied South Africa’s intentions of pushing for a victory as the hosts made 96 runs at 2.73 per over. Both India and South Africa were also reticent to take the initiative at that stage, and the visitors were more than happy to operate with the old ball that was used for as many as 146 overs.

The session also saw Ravindra Jadeja bowling a marathon spell that began in the final session of the third day, lasting 25 overs. Kallis reached a highly satisfying personal milestone amidst that overall ennui, nudging Jadeja to mid-on for a single to reach his 45th Test hundred.

Soon he departed, giving a catch to MS Dhoni off Jadeja and poignant scenes followed. Kallis returned to the pavilion, acknowledging the crowd; his teammates crowded around him and Graeme Smith kissed his head. Amidst all that frenzy, Jadeja completed a five-wicket haul, and that should give him immense confidence ahead of future trips.

Kallis took 393 minutes and 316 balls to complete the knock, and it was one of the slowest of his centuries. His innings also helped South Africa nose ahead of India by 50 runs at that stage, but still the situation called for a quicker approach.

The South African batsmen replied to the task, racing to 102 runs at 7.02 runs per over in the post-lunch session, and they looked in supreme comfort till rain halted their charge, forcing an early tea.

Faf Du Plessis and Robin Peterson, who made a brisk 61 off 52 balls with nine fours and a six, were the men behind that turbo-charged passage, and they gave a hint of things to come, plundering 29 runs in the first three overs of the middle session. That onslaught left the Indians stunned, and the entertaining alliance came to an end when Peterson skied Mohammed Shami to M Vijay in the deep.

Du Plessis was soon run out for the second successive innings, and the Indian bowlers had little difficulty in bundling out the rest of the tail, but South Africa’s lead by then had swelled substantially.

It certainly wasn’t an easy pitch to bat on, particularly under nippy conditions and the Indian openers – Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan – soon found it out the hard way. Dale Steyn harrowed them with pace and bounce as he did in the last innings, while Vernon Philander, for once, discovered the right length after a couple of below-par outings in this series.

Several times, Steyn and Philander beat the Indian batsmen outside the off-stump before the latter met with success. Vijay had done well in this series to cut down on his loose off-side play. But this time he found the temptation for a waft too strong to resist against a Philander delivery that pitched just outside the off-stump, and Graeme Smith did the rest at first slip.

Dhawan too was edgy to begin with, having a couple of narrow escapes against Steyn and Morne Morkel. But the arrival of Cheteshwar Pujara had a calming effect on him as the left-hander began to play with much more self-assurance. It required an absolutely brilliant catch from Du Plessis off Peterson at mid-wicket to end that persistent 45-run stand. Dhawan could hardly believe that an airborne Du Plessis took his well-timed chip-flick.

Pujara and Virat Kohli ended the day without further damage, but more hard work beckons India on the last day.

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