|Hashim Amla is bowled by Mohammed Shami during South Africa’s second innings, on the fourth day of the first Test, at the Wanderers, on Saturday. South Africa went to stumps at 138 for two, needing another 320 runs
in their bid to chase down a target of 458. (AP)
Calcutta: Eight wickets separate India and a remarkable victory over South Africa, in the first Test, in Johannesburg.
Chasing a monster target of 458, the Proteas were 138 for two at stumps, on Saturday, the fourth day of the match. They are 320 runs away from the target and covering that journey on a fifth day pitch is close to impossible unless someone plays a blinder.
Moreover, they have already lost two key batsmen in captain Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla.
The Indian batsmen, on Saturday, could add 137 runs to their overnight total. But while Cheteshwar Pujara went on to complete his 150, Virat Kohli missed his second century of the match by just four runs when he was caught by Smith in the slips of part-timer JP Duminy.
At the end of the day’s play, Kohli didn’t hide his disappointment. “I am disappointed that I couldn’t reach my century. I was playing very patiently and I just wanted to build my innings all over again from the scratch. The 19 runs that I scored today have been very patient runs. Unfortunately, the ball that I got out to was a delivery which bounced a bit more than I thought. Even though I wanted to keep it down, it got the edge. But it’s okay. I enjoyed batting on this wicket,” he said.
But he was happy that India were in a commanding position. “At the end of the day what matters is putting your team in a good position… And we are in a good position,” he said.
Elaborating more on his batting, he said: “I was challenged a lot earlier on during the one-dayers… I knew there was going to be a lot of short stuff. I didn’t practise that much in the nets, but I visualised a lot of things. I prepared myself mentally. I knew I would be challenged and I also knew that I have to counter-attack… To send the message across that we are here to compete.”
Virat stressed that believed in his abilities. “It was all about standing up to the test and believing in my abilities. That’s what my game is all about… It’s all about my confidence. I had a plan when I went to Australia and stuck to it. Here, in South Africa also, I have a plan. Fortunately, I got into my zone and played my game,” he said.
On the adjustments that he has had to make during this tour, he said: “The biggest adjustment that I had to make was leaving the balls pitched in the fourth-stump line and those going over the off-stump. You need to be confident that the ball is not going to hit the stumps. You have to trust the bounce and leave the ball accordingly. You have to be sure in your mind that you are judging the bounce right while leaving the balls.”
Kohli also lavished praise on Pujara, with whom he shared a 222-run partnership. “Pujara batted beautifully… If you see his stats, you will find that he scored only nine runs in the first 65 balls that he faced. He totally tired out their bowling attack and then capitalised on that. That’s been his strength,” Kohli said.
“He is a great player at No. 3… He’s got great temperament. He is scoring so many runs for us. Batting with him has been a great thing. We had a massive partnership. If you see our card, you will see that we didn’t have good partnerships before or after us. That shows that on this sort of pitches, wickets come in bunches and we knew that. We knew that we can’t throw away our wickets and have to keep going. First we put on a 100-run partnership, then a 200-run partnership, and then we added 22… That helped the team a lot,” he added.
Pujara, too, said that the key was being patient. “Initially I was trying to look through the conditions as the ball was new and was doing a bit… I was being patient and was waiting for the opportunity to accelerate. I knew the start was important and I was batting well even in the first innings. So it was important to see through the new ball and play my shots,” Pujara said at the media conference.
Asked how he felt scoring a century in South African conditions, he said: “There were a lot of talk about this tour, especially about the Indian batsmen not doing well overseas… But I think everybody took the responsibility and did it as a unit. It was an important innings for me as well because I wanted to score runs in South Africa, considering the conditions here are a little difficult.”
On his partnership with Kohli, Pujara said: “We have played many innings together and the communication is also very good. We have got a very good rapport because I think we are of the same age and whenever we want to pass on an information and chat about something, it becomes easier.”
Pujara expects the wicket to assist the bowlers on the final day. “I think the wicket has variable bounce and we have seen that cracks have been opening up. We are expecting that we will get more movement from the ball on the fifth day. Even while I was batting in the morning, I felt that the odd ball was going up and down.”
But does the South Africans have a chance to chase down the 320 more runs required? “I think we are very happy with the two wickets we have got and the conditions will be a little more difficult on Sunday. We have got enough runs on the board, and I think it will not be an issue for us. It’s important for us to get few wickets in the first session,” Pujara said.