It was Morne Morkels version of the sucker punch. A full delivery on off-stump bowled at 145.4 kph. It also had Murali Vijays number written all over it. The Indian opener went down without a fight. His feet remained limp,and a weak poke away from the body resulted in an outside edge to South Africa wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.
All the hard work put in during the first session,over in a jiffy.
Morkel had of course forced Vijay into his trap by softening him up and pushing him onto the back foot. Thrice the ball reared up and flew past the splice of the right-handers bat. Morkel even managed to clip the edge,only for the ball to fall agonisingly short of Hashim Amla at third slip. And off the final ball before drinks,he had Vijay fending awkwardly against a short ball,the inside edge ballooning and almost being snared by a diving Amla at backward short-leg.
Incidentally,the opener looked quite comfortable till Morkel came on. The last time he had played a Test on South African soil,Vijay had been quickly sorted out by Dale Steyns pace and movement. Today,however,he seemed to have conquered his fears. Vijay was beaten only once in the first hour,by a customary Steyn outswinger. Otherwise,he had left the ball outside his off stump without much fuss.
Before Morkel came on,Vijay had shouldered arms to 19 out of 31 deliveries he faced against Steyn and Vernon Philander. He had even left a few on length,trusting the bounce on the Wanderers wicket. Even when a few from Philander tailed in sharply.
But against Morkels extra bounce,Vijay was suddenly all at sea. The confidence was gone as he jabbed and prodded meekly,the gap between bat and pad widening on each occasion.
Despite having scored only six runs off 35 balls,Vijay had been batting just like he had said he wanted to,with a free mind. But Morkel had clouded his head with doubts again with his two-over burst.
Rahul Dravid had said prior to the first Test that the secret for success in these conditions was to not stress about the short ball and be wary of the fuller one. To be prepared to come forward.
Vijay didnt,and duly perished.
(Bharat is a principal correspondent)