In some ways, a draw was the just result for both teams at the end of a gripping first Test because neither team deserved to lose. But you can’t escape the feeling that at some stage or the other, both India and South Africa let the advantage slip.
You have to give credit to the way Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers batted on the final day. It was brilliant batsmanship with very little display of nerves, given the match situation. I thought the way they approached the task was phenomenal.
Already in his brief Test career, du Plessis has shown great resolve and determination. On his debut in Adelaide against Australia, he batted nearly eight hours to save the game, and he seems to have derived tremendous confidence from that knock, though the pitch at the Wanderers was vastly different from the one in Adelaide.
Having said that, I am sure the Indians themselves would have been surprised by the strategy adopted by South Africa after du Plessis was dismissed. Of course, things would have been different if he hadn’t been run out excellently by Ajinkya Rahane while going for a suicidal run. But even so, I was taken aback by South Africa’s strategy after the fall of the seventh wicket.
Of the seven wickets, two were run outs and no single bowler had threatened to run through the batting. I could have understood pulling the shutters down if one bowler was in the middle of a sensational spell, but that wasn’t the case, which is why I found the South African tactics a little bizarre. When you want to create history, it is worth taking the risk to go the whole hog. South Africa didn’t do that, which will rankle for a long time.
The Indians can take a lot of positives from this game, especially in the manner in which they batted in both innings. But they will be disappointed at having dominated for four days and not forcing a result on the last day despite everything seemingly loaded in their favour.
I thought Zaheer bowled really well throughout the Test, with energy and passion, and I would like to congratulate him on becoming only the second fast bowler from India to take 300 Test wickets, a commendable achievement.
But I was surprised that he didn’t look to change his angle of attack at any stage throughout the second innings when he only bowled from round the stumps. If that angle is working, then fine but when it is not, then you need to make adjustments.
Not just the angles of the bowlers, but I also felt India missed a trick by not changing the ends of the bowlers when du Plessis and de Villiers were in the middle of their double century partnership. India had the cushion of 458 runs and the knowledge that on a fifth-day pitch, South Africa had to score the most runs in a day in the Test match for victory while they themselves needed only eight wickets for a famous overseas win.
They could have been a little proactive in their quest for a famous win overseas. All told, India will rue an opportunity lost, but having been at the receiving end during the fifth-wicket stand, they will be happy they came out unscathed.
The obvious positive for India was the way Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara batted in this Test match. South Africa will take heart from having withstood the Indian bowling pressure and a huge mountain of 458 runs, but when they sit back and reflect, there will be many within the team who will wonder why they did not press on and go all out for the win.
Some questions will remain unanswered, particularly why de Villiers bowled ahead of their frontline spinner, Imran Tahir, on the third day. When de Villiers and I were both with the Bangalore franchise, he didn’t even roll his arm over in the nets, so for him to bowl in a Test ahead of the specialist spinner would suggest to me that the captain was unhappy with the playing eleven given to him and that was his way of showing his displeasure.
I suppose it will be safe to say that going into the second Test in Durban, Tahir doesn’t quite fit into the South African scheme of things. The Indians have an opportunity to do better than what they did the last time - Winning the Test series!
Professional Management Group