When adrenaline floods the Indian pace attack, oppositions stand unnerved. The Indian quicks aren’t just about aggressive intent though. Relentless hunger for success has been a key feature in their evolution.
The fearsome attack has made the world sit up and take notice, and its reputation has only burgeoned during the three-match series for the Freedom Series. For the third Test against South Africa, India chose a two-prong pace attack and that was enough to nearly dismantle the Proteas twice in a day. Mohammed Shami (2/22 & 3/10) and Umesh Yadav (3/40 & 2/35) shared eight of the 16 wickets that tumbled on the third day to put India on the threshold of a 3-0 clean sweep.
South Africa’s batting flopped not once but twice as they were pushed to the brink of a second successive innings defeat. In reply to India’s 497/9 declared, South Africa resumed from 9/2 only to be packed off for 162 in the first innings. Asked to follow on, the visitors imploded to reach 132/8 at stumps, still needing 203 runs to make India bat again.
In the first over of the day, Umesh gave an indication of things to come. The Vidarbha paceman removed Faf du Plessis (1), a dismissal he is sure to cherish for a long time. Pitched on the seam, the red cherry slightly moved away to beat the South African skipper and knock off his off-stump.
The combination of Shami and Umesh breathed fire but Zubayr Hamza (62) and Temba Bavuma (32) survived the testing period. Hamza, offering a straight bat to all deliveries and focusing hard, was impressive. However, a moment of discretion saw South Africa implode again. Hamza was bowled while trying to cut a straight ball from Jadeja while Bavuma came down the track and missed it completely to hand debutante Shahbaz Nadeem (2/22) his first Test wicket.
With two set batsmen shown the door, South Africa’s wheels soon came off but not before Shami had produced a riveting spell of 4-2-3-1 in the second session. The Bengal paceman shook tail-ender Andrich Nortje with a barrage of bouncers. Umesh was equally good on the field, inflicting a direct hit to see the back of Kagiso Rabada.
The pacers cleaned up the tail and came back harder at their rivals in the second hit. It was Umesh who kick-started the South African parade. He beat Quinton de Kock’s (5) defence and sent the off-stump cart-wheeling, leaving skipper Virat Kohli shaking his head in amazement. Even before South Africa could recover from the early jolt, Shami sized up their top-order.
The second innings master knocked off Zubayr Hamza’s (0) off-stump and caught Du Plessis (4) – who was late to a ball that stayed a bit low – plumb in front. Bavuma (0) was Shami’s third victim when he nicked one to the wicketkeeper.
The hostile spell from the Indian pacers caused anxiety in the South African camp when Dean Elgar was felled to the ground by a bouncer from Umesh at the stroke of tea. The southpaw took his eyes off to a snorter that smashed his helmet. After he walked off the ground for medical assessment, Theunis de Bruyn was named his concussion substitute, the third ever after Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne against England and West Indies’ Jermaine Blackwood against India. De Bruyn responded to the call with an attacking (30 not out) innings.
India too suffered due to injury when Wriddhiman Saha hurt his right ring finger while collecting a ball off R Ashwin. The team management said Saha, who was replaced by Rishabh Pant behind the stumps, will be assessed on Tuesday morning.
Saha’s injury was just a minor aberration in what has been a near perfect outing for India.