India’s replacement killer: Ravindra Jadeja spins out four wickets

Jadeja spins out four wickets as South Africa close in on visitors' first innings score.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Durban | Published: December 29, 2013 1:33 am

At his pomp,Shane Warne would often begin a spell with a big turning leg-break,one that would pitch on a length and rip away from the right-hander. It was about issuing a threat,to tell the batsman that there was enough in the pitch for him to be wary of.

There was no Warne at Kingsmead on Saturday. Ravindra Jadeja’s orthodox delivery to Alviro Petersen that almost had the opener stumped didn’t turn appreciably or dramatically. It was only his 10th delivery of the day. The rest had had little impact on the two South African openers. This one though not only came tantalizingly close to getting India their first wicket with Petersen just about surviving. The ball drifted in with the around-the-wicket angle and turned past the bat with bounce,India’s lead spinner had also put doubts in the opposition camp.

Within two overs,Jadeja would realize that his turn and bounce probably had had a greater impact on Graeme Smith at the non-striker’s end. The South African skipper had never looked at ease against the left-arm spinner. The left-hander had shouldered arms to a ball that pitched in the rough outside his off-stump and turned sharply into him,striking his thigh. On this occasion,he jumped out of the crease,didn’t bother about the pitch of the ball and attempted a glory-shot. The ball hit the bat near its handle,ballooned up and was clasped in acrobatic fashion by Shikhar Dhawan. Jadeja had broken through. Three overs later,he had Petersen too,out caught at slip to a delivery similar to the one that had beaten him earlier.

Eventually Jadeja would finish with figures of 4/87 on another day affected by rain and bad light with South Africa dragging their first innings score to 299/5 with Jacques Kallis still unbeaten on 78,just 22 runs short of a 46th Test ton. Not to forget 37 away from eclipsing Rahul Dravid from the No.3 spot in the all-time Test run-getters’ list. If the first half of the extended opening session was dominated by Jadeja,the next three hours belonged to Kallis and AB de Villiers,as the duo rebuilt with a 127-run stand. Then Jadeja came back to put the spanner in the wheels yet again,to dismiss de Villiers and JP Duminy.

There were many question marks about Jadeja’s ability in foreign climes. At Kingsmead,he was just proving why that criticism might be unwarranted.

The wicket in Durban did have enough to keep Jadeja interested. There were footmarks to play with. There were balls that were turning and rearing up,even getting a well-set Kallis in two minds. But as always with Jadeja,close to 85 per cent of his deliveries landed on the exact same spot. He also bowled his overs at a rapid rate,keeping the pressure on the batsmen. He bowled unchanged for 16 overs in the morning-a spell interrupted by a change of ends.

Kallis and de Villiers were made to use their feet,and they were successful on occasions. While Jadeja remained a threat,the rest of the Indian bowling lacked sting. Kallis and de Villiers made the most of it,launching into a number of striking boundaries. Both scored half-centuries and looked set to take the game away from India when Jadeja struck back,getting de Villiers caught at slip like Petersen and then Duminy trapped in front.

Jadeja also ended the third day with a strong statement. “People say I can only turn the ball in India. My goal was to take five wickets here. Hopefully I can take one more tomorrow and prove that I can turn the ball even abroad,” he said.

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