If theres one thing that Dale Steyn takes as seriously as hurling thunderbolts at batsmen,its his own batting. He certainly wouldnt be the first fast bowler to share that particular quirk. But with Steyn,his preparation for a Test match with the bat is quite intense. False shots and mishits are berated. Sometimes even the stumps get a hammering. Bowlers who beat him are acknowledged but are then charged at.
Its not surprising then that the South African pacer should have been upset when he was jeered at the Wanderers last week. It was not just his judgement being questioned. It was his ability with the bat that had come under the scanner. And you could almost have imagined Steyn accept the role of night-watchman at Kingsmead like a blessing. This was his chance to set the record straight. In Johannesburg,he was marked out as the chief culprit for having denied South Africa a dramatic victory. Here on Sunday,it was he who probably set up a series winning chance for his team,with the bat.
Into the lead
South Africa would eventually rake up 500 in their first innings,a lead of 166 runs. Steyns contribution of 44 might not seem as significant as the others,including Jacques Kallis 115 in possibly his last Test innings. But it was his gung-ho knock that returned the momentum to South Africa,after they had lost it briefly on Day Three thanks to Ravindra Jadejas left-arm spin. There were a couple of drives that would have given him a lot of joy but mainly Steyns innings was based around resolute defence and a number of violent blows – three of which hit the top-edge and flew over the slips. He even charged the likes of Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami on a few occasions as India continued to wheel away with a ball that resembled a rotten apple – the visitors would eventually take the new-ball in the 147th over of the innings. Once Steyn departed,in walked Robin Peterson,who along with justifying his selection ahead of Imran Tahir,also played a vital in South Africa taking the game well and truly away from the Indians.
At the other end,Kallis was his sublime self. His tempo had been slowed down slightly towards the end of Saturday. But he was away early on the fourth day with a glide towards fine-leg for four and a characteristic cover-drive and fast approached his ton.
At around 10.20 am,Durban time,the whole of Kingsmead and assembled at every vantage point possible to catch a glimpse of history. Unfortunately,they had to wait for another 10 minutes as Kallis faced a few dot deliveries. Then came a nudge to mid-on off a straight delivery from Jadeja. Not one generally for an overt show of emotion,Kallis this time lived up to the drama of the moment,raising his bat,even brandishing it towards the dressing-room and then acknowledging the loud applause around Kingsmead. It was a culmination of an 18-year long career,one that had been filled with moments of glory right till the very end.
Soon after,Kallis also went past Rahul Dravid to become the third highest run-getter in Test history before attempting a slog-sweep and being caught by Mahendra Singh Dhoni off a top-edge. This was also Jadejas fifth wicket of the innings.
The next hour or so was the Peterson show. Peterson even dished out a switch-hit that his namesake – the one from England – would have been proud of.
Having bowled their hearts out in the second innings at Wanderers,the Indian pace attack seemed a tired lot here. There were spells where they beat the bat. But there werent enough of them. Zaheer in particular struggled with his consistency and so did Ishant Sharma. Peterson eventually exited for 61 that came off just 52 deliveries before Jadeja finished the innings with his sixth wicket in his 59th over-the third most by a spinner in South Africa for close to 20 years.