SA vs India: Brisk but fearlessly contested test series
South Africa ended 2013 with a ten wicket win over India securing a 1-0 series win and breaking the hoodoo of Durban, winning a Boxing Day Test for the first time since 2008. The Jacques Kallis legacy ended with a fairytale, but the South African legacy can only continue to grow. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
This phrase is likely to be repeated a few times over the course of the next few days, but what a great shame the Test series, if one could be so obtuse to call two-games a series, between South Africa and India has come to an end after just two matches.
For South Africa, it’s the first time since travelling to Australia last year that they have been properly tested in all aspects. Sure, they lost one Test against Pakistan in the UAE a few months ago, but they bounced right back from that defeat.
This time around, South Africa were never really entirely off the hook. It’s a series that has had everything - from verbal exchanges, much needed hundreds, retirements, fast bowlers bouncing back and foreign batsmen proving their critics wrong. To use the ICC’s marketing speak, this would have, could have and should have been an “elite” Test series with a minimum of three Tests. But, thanks to childish boardroom games and the lack of backbone by those who govern these childish folk, everyone will be left wondering what could have been.
Nonetheless, it was a memorable series in which South Africa once again proved why they are ranked the number one side in the world. Winning Tests and series from near impossible situations is a mark of a great team and South Africa have done just that. Despite some questioning their intent in the first Test when they opted for a draw instead of going all guns blazing after a win, the Proteas have done well to fight back when their backs were against the wall. Caution is not a sign of cowardice. Instead, it should be viewed as hedging your bets and backing your ability against the elements and the unknown. Had South Africa risked it all in that first outing, the result might have been a far more convincing 2-0, but the context of just two Tests, the psychology of averting defeat was far more important than risking a loss and being unable to win a series. While glory beckoned, sometimes history is also created through surviving adversity and over the course of the last 18 months, this South African side has done so time and time again. They also broke the hoodoo of Durban, winning their first Test there since 2008. There is no way that this side’s character can or should be questioned.
Their ability to adapt to different game situations was evident in the second Test when Dale Steyn returned to his spritely self and the batting stepped up to the challenge of scoring quick runs lower down the order, to amass 500 runs in reply to India's 334. Despite a customary slow-paced hundred from retiring Jacques Kallis, Robin Peterson and Faf du Plessis’ 110-run partnership, which came at 6.11 runs per over, set the tone for South Africa's intent. Although their lead was measly, the bowlers once again did the job with Steyn and Vernon Philander working in surgical tandem to dismantle the Indian batting line-up on the final day. South Africa’s bowlers and their ability to consistently take 20 wickets in flat decks is a key component of their success and that they have done so without a 'real' spinner is testament to their greatness.
Despite the strife, though, India deserve all the credit in the world for not simply surrendering meekly and proving that they are not the flat track bullies they are so often labelled as. Their young batsmen aptly fended off ferocious assaults from Steyn and co; Che Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane played the South African pace lieutenants with pizazz. The delusion of simply being flat-track bullies have, for now, been quelled and will only resurface once they travel to England next year. As far as memorable matches go, the last two games between the two sides have been what Test cricket is all about.
“Legacy” is the word this South African team likes to use when they speak about the future and what they hope to achieve. While the legacy of Kallis will come to an end on the Test arena, the legacy of the current all-conquering South African Test team will continue to grow. With a new spot open for another youngster to step up and slot into this illustrious side, the looming series against a regenerating Australia will be the marquee event of the South African summer. DM
South Africa 500 (Kallis 115, de Villiers 74, Jadeja 6-138) and 59 for 0 beat India 334 (Vijay 97, Pujara 70, Steyn 6-100) and 223 (Rahane 96, Peterson 4-74) by ten wickets.
Photo: Robin Peterson (L) and AB de Villiers (2nd L) celebrate the wicket of India's Ravindra Jadeja, as South Africa's JP Duminy (R) looks on, during the fifth day of the second test cricket match in Durban, December 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Rogan Ward)