The Proteas completed a stunning comeback to beat India by 72 runs at Newlands to take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
The Proteas should be elated and more than a little relieved in the wake of a dramatic battle against the No 1 side in the world. While South Africa’s batsmen – bar AB de Villiers – failed to show the necessary mettle in admittedly challenging conditions, the bowlers exuded accuracy and temperament, and were ultimately the difference between the two sides.
India, under pressure for much of this contest, fought back hard to dismiss South Africa for 130 early on day four. It was the tourists who appeared favourites when Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were still at the crease some 30 minutes into the second session. The score at that stage was 30-0 after 7.5 overs.
An incredible response by the Proteas attack – short a bowler due to the injury-enforced withdrawal of Dale Steyn – propelled the hosts back into a position of power. Vernon Philander was at his metronomic best while Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada bowled quickly and aggressively. Together, the trio fired to claim all the wickets in what was a result-shaping period.
The mood in the camp may have been very different at lunch as the Proteas were in a commanding position at the start of day four. One would have expected them to build on a 142-run lead, rather than lose their last eight second-innings wickets for only 65 runs.
India certainly made the most of the conditions during that session as Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah combined to rip through the Proteas middle-order. Bhuvneshwar Kumar wrapped up the tail to ensure that the tourists went to the break in the ascendancy.
The Proteas stuck to their task with Morkel chipping in with the dismissals of Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara. Philander was the destroyer in chief, though, claiming six wickets – including that of India captain Virat Kohli.
Ravi Ashwin and Kumar clubbed together for a morale-boosting partnership of 49 late in the day but Philander made a timely return to the attack, dismissing Ashwin before running through the tail. The local man finished with best-ever Test figures of 6-42.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Big Vern’s super six
The Proteas go into the next game at Centurion – a potential series decider – with confidence and momentum and while there is room for improvement on the batting front, their bowling attack will take plenty out of this fine display at Newlands.
SA 286 (1st innings) – AB de Villiers 65, Faf du Plessis 62, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-87, Ravi Ashwin 2-21
India 209 (1st innings) – Hardik Pandya 93, Cheteshwar Pujara 26, Vernon Philander 3-33, Kagiso Rabada 3-34
SA 130 (2nd innings) – AB de Villiers 35, Aiden Markram 34, Mohammed Shami 3-28, Jasprit Bumrah 3-39
India 135 (2nd innings) – Ravi Ashwin 37, Vernon Philander 6-42, Kagiso Rabada 2-41
South Africa won by 72 runs
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix