What SA couldn’t do in a day,Vernon Philander does in first session

It was once more the introduction of Morne Morkel that brought the game to life.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Johannesburg | Published:December 20, 2013 3:52 am

Allan Donald arrived a tad early for the end of day’s play media briefing on Wednesday. Waiting his turn,the South African bowling coach listened in on Virat Kohli’s strong remarks about the home team’s miscalibrated radar with the ball. It brought a smile on Donald’s face.

Donald was after all in a position he wasn’t used to,for his bowlers haven’t given him too many opportunities to defend a below-par performance in the past. If anything,the former South African fast bowler’s been allowed to linger in the background while Dale Steyn & Co have gone on to become the most formidable pace attack in the world.

For,as well as Virat Kohli batted on Day One,you couldn’t ignore the fact that the Proteas were under-par. And especially so in terms of the line they bowled over extended periods of time. “Probably the widest I have seen us bowl outside the off-stump and probably because the ball was swinging,” Donald had said. A fair indication of his comment was that the first lbw appeal of the first day didn’t come until the 74th over of the day.

Thursday started off in contrasting fashion overall. The sun was hidden behind the clouds. The Wanderers pitch had absorbed a lot of moisture with the overnight rain. And the South African pacers came out with a spring in their stride. We’ll never know whether Donald had anything to do with it.

For starters,these were conditions custom-made for Vernon Philander. A day earlier,he had been the main guilty party in terms of missing his line and length. The burly swing bowler had literally wasted the new-ball in the first session when the pitch was fresh by bowling too short,and never really inviting the Indian batsmen onto the front-foot. He also kept drifting onto their pads,providing easy singles,and didn’t bowl a maiden till his 13th over. Not to forget that a majority of the leaves by the visiting batsmen had come off his bowling.

But with overcast skies,Philander was back to his potent best on Thursday morning. Suddenly he was beating the outside edge a lot more and also hitting MS Dhoni on his pads. This despite the Indian skipper standing a couple of inches outside his crease to combat the swing.

Steyn didn’t look on top of his game in his three-over burst on Day Two either,and he offered Dhoni comfortable singles off his legs. Still,after the first half hour,the hosts had the stranglehold on the Indians,having conceded only eight runs in seven overs.

It was once more the introduction of Morne Morkel that brought the game to life. And just like he did with Murali Vijay on Day 1,he had Dhoni caught in his crease,expecting the short ball,and poking at a delivery away from his body.

By now,Philander had found his rhythm and his length,and beat a well-set Ajinkya Rahane’s bat on a couple of occasions before having him caught-behind with the perfect out-swinger. Philander then had Zaheer Khan trapped lbw to an in-swinger bowled at the same length,before squaring up Ishant Sharma and hitting his stumps with an out-swinger that moved late. Unlike the previous day,Philander,who finished with 4/61,and Morkel got close to 80 per cent of their deliveries in the right area and offered hardly any chances for the Indians to shoulder arms. If they weren’t going past the outside-edge,they were attacking the stumps.

A couple of overs later,the Indian innings was done and dusted. The Proteas had taken only 13 overs to polish the lower-order,conceding only 25 runs in the bargain. More importantly,they had also brought the smile back on Donald’s face.

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