Rahane’s determined knock delays the inevitable after the Indian batting is done in by quick strikes
Fiery bowling that heaped pressure, a few strokes that defied the Indian context of trying to save a game and one vagary of luck as reflected in Virat Kohli’s dismissal, all combined to help South Africa defeat India by 10 wickets in the second Test that concluded at the Kingsmead Stadium here on Monday.
The 1-0 series triumph was the Proteas’ perfect gift to Jacques Kallis, who bid goodbye to Tests amidst a groundswell of emotion and goodwill. The icon did a lap of honour, waved the South African flag, gulped a beer much to the amusement of his team-mates and banners with the words ‘Farewell King Kallis’ sprung up in all the stands.
After Ajinkya Rahane’s gutsy 96 helped India score 223 and avoid the ignominy of an innings defeat, South Africa knocked off the required 58 runs in its second innings without any fuss.
“Our team showed a lot of character to come here and do the job. Our spinners have had a hard time leading into this game and seen in that light, Robin Peterson’s effort was fine. Yes, Jacques’s hundred was special but knowing him, he will take more from this victory,” South African captain Graeme Smith said.
India had an opportunity to return home without losing a Test in South Africa, an achievement that eluded it during the previous tours since 1992 but M.S. Dhoni’s men suddenly wilted. The sluggishness of the fourth day paved the way for timidity on the concluding day though Rahane proved to be a remarkable exception.
“He batted well, looked compact and it is a positive for us going forward. The morning session proved costly for us, we had a few tough decisions that went against us and a few soft dismissals which affected us. Overall I thought we performed well in this series but yes we could have done better,” said Dhoni.
India’s downfall started right in the morning when ‘Man of the Match’ Dale Steyn (nine wickets in the game) dismissed an unlucky Kohli with the day’s first delivery, a short-pitched one that missed the willow but brushed the batsman’s shoulder and thudded into ‘Man of the Series’ A.B. de Villiers’ gloves. The instant appeal was upheld it was a wound that India could not afford.
A match could turn on such slender threads of luck. Worse was to follow when Steyn angled the ball in and Pujara had it covered but didn’t factor its subtle away-movement on hitting the seam. The off-stump was rattled and India slumped to 71 for four.
The stage was set for two Mumbaikars to live up to the legacy of the much-avowed ‘Bombay school of batsmanship.’ When the day concluded only Rahane lived up to those standards. His partner Rohit had a verbal spat with Steyn, not the most prudent thing to do against a rampaging fast bowler. Rohit then pulled Steyn, lofted a six off Peterson and guided Vernon Philander past third-man. That bout of staggered aggression also rubbed onto Rahane, who drove Steyn over short-cover.
Sadly, the partnership did not get beyond the starting blocks, a flaw that afflicted India all through its jinxed second tenure. Philander darted one in and Rohit committed to play down the leg-side got trapped and reverse-swing did the rest.
At 104 for five, Rahane and Dhoni tried to revive India in their varying ways. Dhoni tried to hustle Peterson and often jumped out of the crease while Rahane remaining correct and also drove Morne Morkel for four. However the Indians’ fancy to attack Peterson (four for 74) back-fired.
Dhoni rocked back, his wrist flexing an arc but the flick stayed uppish and was caught. The skipper had failed at a crucial time but more horrors were to follow.
Ravindra Jadeja smacked a six off the left-arm spinner, failed to rein in his adrenalin and another hoick led to a leading-edge. Peterson was gifted two wickets and India was still in arrears!
Rahane though ensured that South Africa had to bat again. In all the despair that engulfed the Indian dressing room, his fighting effort and the fluid manner in which straight-drove Steyn and later repeatedly struck Philander, were all embers of a fading hope.
Zaheer Khan too finally put a price on his wicket but it was just a matter of time before the host’s overwhelming superiority hurt India.
India — 2nd innings: Shikhar Dhawan c du Plessis b Peterson 19 (87b, 2x4), Murali Vijay c Smith b Philander 6 (13b, 1x4), Cheteshwar Pujara b Steyn 32 (100b, 4x4), Virat Kohli c de Villiers b Steyn 11 (27b, 1x4), Rohit Sharma lbw b Philander 25 (46b, 2x4, 1x6), Ajinkya Rahane b Philander 96 (157b, 11x4, 2x6), M.S. Dhoni c Petersen b Peterson 15 (29b, 2x4), Ravindra Jadeja c Morkel b Peterson 8 (5b, 1x6), Zaheer Khan lbw b Peterson 3 (41b), Ishant Sharma c de Villiers b Steyn 1 (10b), Mohammad Shami (not out) 1 (1b); Extras (b-4, w-2): 6; Total (in 86 overs): 223.
Fall of wickets: 1-8 (Vijay), 2-53 (Dhawan), 3-68 (Kohli), 4-71 (Pujara), 5-104 (Rohit), 6-146 (Dhoni), 7-154 (Jadeja), 8-189 (Zaheer), 9-206 (Ishant).
South Africa bowling: Dale Steyn 21-8-47-3, Vernon Philander 16-4-43-3, Morne Morkel 16-6-34-0, Robin Peterson 24-3-74-4, J-P Duminy 8-2-20-0, Faf du Plessis 1-0-1-0.
South Africa — 2nd innings: Graeme Smith (not out) 27 (33b, 4x4, 1x6), Alviro Petersen (not out) 31 (37b, 5x4, 1x6); Extras (w-1): 1. Total (for no loss in 11.4 overs): 59.
India bowling: Mohammad Shami 2-1-4-0, Ishant Sharma 5-1-29-0, Ravindra Jadeja 4-0-16-0, Rohit Sharma 0.4-0-11-0.