India maintained their unbeaten run at the Wanderers as they beat South Africa in the third and final Test by 63 runs and wrapped the match with a day to spare. In a sensational spell of bowling, India’s pacers took the last seven wickets of the hosts in the final session of the day to wrap up the innings for 177. It was a remarkable fightback by the away side, who were pegged back by a defiant 119-run-knock for the second wicket between Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla. Elgar continued to fight a lone battle and remained unbeaten on 86.
Whether the match could continue or not was in doubt towards the end of Day 3 because of the erratic bounce that the pitch was exhibiting. Batsmen struggled for runs throughout the match and the officials called players off the field when a short-pitched delivery by Bumrah struck Dean Elgar on the head in the fag end of the day’s play. Virat Kohli and the Indian contingent did not look happy with the uncertainty surrounding the match with vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane stating that the pitch was challenging but it was not dangerous to bat on. Finally, it was decided that the match would go ahead on the fourth day with the officials keeping a close eye on the pitch.
Amla and Elgar continued from Day 3 and weathered blows to their bodies to ensure that South Africa don’t lose a wicket at least in the early part of the day. As the ball started getting older, the batsmen grew more confident and kept the scoreboard ticking, so much so that towards the end of the second session, it looked like Elgar and Amla had swung the match the Proteas’ way. Their partnership was the first one to reach three digits throughout this Test.
It was when the scoreboard read 124 that the turning point came. Amla and Elgar had both got to what has to be one of the toughest individual half centuries of their respective careers and had brought South Africa close enough to think that India had let this match go. That was when Amla went for the flick off Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya took a sharp catch to dismiss the solid right-hander. Every batting feat had been applauded at the Wanderers, be it when the partnership between Elgar and Amla reaching 100 or the two half-centuries that they got, and it was no different as he walked back. From the way Virat Kohli celebrated that wicket, it looked like he knew that was a major fish in the net. It turned out to be true.
AB De Villiers held on till Tea but not long after it. In fact, it was only in the third session that it became apparent that Amla’s wicket was a floodgate that had been unlocked. De Villiers nicked one off Bumrah and Ajinkya Rahane made no mistake at gully. Next came Faf du Plessis and he went without making too much of a contribution. Quinton de Kock was sent back by Bumrah off the first ball that he faced. India were back in it.
It looked like Vernon Philander had found a way to sail his boat on the choppy waters, just as Elgar had. For the next couple of overs, he hit runs off Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. The home crowd cheered him on but in came Mohammed Shami to do the sweeping act. Shami took the wickets of Philander and Andile Phehlukwayo in a single over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed Rabada and Shami came back to sweep up the dismiss the last two South African batsmen. In the process, the seamer completed his first five-wicket haul in Tests. Dean Elgar stood by as he watched his teammates fall and ended the innings having faced 240 balls and scored 86 runs. On a pitch that was a nightmare to bat on, the team that doesn’t have a good reputation away from home prevailed.
Brief scores: South Africa 177, Dean Elgar 86 n.o, Mohammed Shami 5/28, India win by 63 runs.
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