South Africa recover after collapse against India
India fast bowler Ishant Sharma (L) celebrates the wicket of South Africa batsman Hashim Amla on the second day of the first Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on December 19, 2013
South Africa were 213 for six at the close, 67 runs behind India’s 280 all out on a day when 11 wickets fell for 228 runs – ten of them in two clusters of five wickets for 16 runs.
Ishant Sharma led an impressive three-pronged Indian pace attack, taking three for 64 but Vernon Philander and Faf du Plessis added an unbeaten 67 for the seventh wicket to leave the match between the world’s two top-ranked Test sides evenly poised.
Sharma sparked the South African collapse in which five wickets fell in 38 balls.
The hosts had progressed to 130 for one when Hashim Amla padded up to a ball which swung back in and clipped the top of his off stump. Amla said the pitch was offering “quite a lot” to seam bowlers but said several of the dismissals could not be blamed on the conditions.
“I could have used my bat,” he quipped about his own downfall.
South African stalwart Jacques Kallis was out first ball, leg before wicket to a full delivery from the tall Sharma.
Kallis, who turned 38 in October, has endured a lean run since making 50 against Pakistan at the same venue in February. His Test scores since then have been 7, 2, 21, 5, 0, 7 and 0.
Without addition to the score, South African captain Graeme Smith was leg before to Zaheer Khan for a battling 68. Smith seldom looked comfortable during his 111-ball innings and was dropped at first slip off Khan when he had 19.
When he was eventually dismissed it was the seventh time he had fallen to Khan in Tests.
JP Duminy made only two before edging Mohammed Shami to first slip and AB de Villiers was leg before to Shami two balls later after making 13.
The match had been transformed as India’s bowlers, maintaining a full length and bowling with discipline, did to South Africa’s top batsmen what the highly-rated South African fast bowlers had failed to do against the Indian top order.
Du Plessis and Philander steadied the South African innings. Du Plessis defended doggedly to finish the day on 17 not out off 55 balls, while Philander had more of the strike and played with more freedom to make 48 not out off 76 deliveries.
Du Plessis was dropped on 17 shortly before the close when he edged Shami to second slip where Rohit Sharma put down a regulation chance.
Ishant Sharma was twice warned by umpire Rod Tucker for running on to the “danger area” of the pitch between wicket and wicket. A further warning would mean he would be taken out of the attack.
South Africa’s was the second significant collapse of the day. Philander and Morne Morkel earlier ripped through India’s lower order batsmen.
Resuming at 255 for five in heavily overcast conditions after overnight and early morning rain, Ajinkya Rahane and Mahendra Singh Dhoni made cautious progress against tight bowling from Dale Steyn, Philander and Morkel.
Only nine runs were scored, including three leg byes and just three scoring shots, before Morkel made the breakthrough with the last ball of the ninth over of the day when Dhoni was caught behind for 19.
Four balls later, Rahane went the same way against Philander for 47. Zaheer Khan went back on his stumps and was palpably leg before wicket to the next ball.
“We wanted to play as long as possible,” said Rahane, “but they bowled really well. Our bowlers also bowled well, so we are happy with our team performance.”
Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami were bowled by Philander and Morkel respectively, both without scoring, leaving Ravichandran Ashwin stranded on 11 not out.
Philander finished with four for 61 after taking three for six in six overs on Thursday and Morkel took three for 34 in 23 overs.
Rahane said he felt India were still in a position to control the game. “They are still 67 runs behind, so we just need to bowl in the right areas tomorrow morning and then bat well in the second innings. I think 275-plus will be a crucial score for them to chase.”
Amla agreed that 275 would be a challenging target but said South Africa had fought their way out of some difficult conditions in their ascent to the number one ranking.
“When you have a collapse like this, fortunately there is another innings where we hope to rectify it. Everyone knows the recover quality of the batters we have, so I don’t think there are too many worries in the team.”