What goes around comes around

Ishant & Co pull it back,taking five SA wickets for 16 runs after India too lose last five for 16.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Johannesburg | Updated: January 18, 2015 4:13 am

You could almost have forgiven Hashim Amla for having shouldered his arms. That it rattled his stumps was another matter. Till then,he had faced 29 deliveries from Ishant Sharma. Only one of those had shaped into him. The other two dozen or so had been either too wide or the length too short.

The 30th delivery from Ishant,the fatal one for Amla,was pitched a couple of inches fuller and also tailed in. It hit off-stump just about half-way up,leaving the batsman bemused. Amla was probably playing for the Ishant that he faced prior to the tea-break. The one that turned up for the last session looked pretty much the same but had returned with a more potent sting. Having dismissed Amla by dragging his length fuller,he welcomed Jacques Kallis with a delivery that was almost a half-volley and tailed in sharply.

Golden duck for Kallis

The veteran right-hander,out-of-form,was too slow to react and was trapped right in front. South Africa had suddenly lost two wickets out of nowhere. Three balls later,Zaheer Khan did what is expected of him on South African soil,getting rid of Graeme Smith. The hosts had sunk to 130/4 from a position of strength. Within five overs they were on the ropes as Mohammad Shami removed JP Duminy and AB de Villiers in the space of three deliveries.

It was probably one of India’s best sessions with the ball overseas in many a year,one where an old warhorse regained his mojo,an enigmatic talent found his length and a promising youngster displayed that he belonged at this level. At the end of it,South Africa were 146/6. The home team recovered slightly with Vernon Philander leading the way with a counterattacking unbeaten 48 with Faf du Plessis for company and taking the score to 213/6 by stumps. South Africa had lost five wickets for 16 runs just like India had earlier in the day. If the South African pacers had taken a day to realize the wicket-taking length on the Wanderers wicket,Ishant and his colleagues had taken a session to do so.

First strike

Ishant drew first blood for his team by removing opener Alviro Petersen with a full delivery that shaped in and had the right-hander caught in front of his stumps. Prior to Ishant’s burst that set up the collapse,it was the Zaheer-Smith battle that lit up proceedings on the second day. The first round,Zaheer’s opening spell,saw the South African captain facing 36 deliveries from his nemesis. And for a better part of it,he was all at sea.

It started in the very first over as Smith survived a loud lbw appeal off just the second delivery. Zaheer’s strategy was obvious — to drag the left-hander,with the penchant to move across his stumps,wider and wider from his off-stump and then slip in the in-swinger. In his eighth over,Zaheer beat Smith’s bat on three occasions,and even got the edge only for R Ashwin to drop a sitter at first slip. There were leading edges and French cuts. It was one of those typically ugly but effective innings from Smith. Zaheer probably ended up erring on the fuller side with Smith flicking and driving him away for boundaries.

Zaheer only bowled a single delivery to the opener in his second spell. By the time he returned for his third spell,Smith was into his sixties. He bowled 10 straight deliveries outside the off-stump,even if it meant bowling slightly wider. Then came the knock-out blow as he slipped in a full delivery that came in at a sharp angle. Smith was too late with his flick shot. The damage had been done. Zaheer had won the duel again and added Smith’s name to his victims’ list for the 14th occasion.

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