It’s easy to float a theory that South Africa were not mentally up to it as they came to Delhi to play a dead rubber. But that would be utterly disrespectful to a top-class bowling effort on a good cricket pitch. Indian bowlers don’t have a reputation for running through opposition batting on good surfaces. At Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday, we saw a refreshing change. The Saffers were done in by the collective brilliance of Indian bowling. No, they were not in a hurry to catch a flight back home. No Test player worth his salt will ever do that.
Ravindra Jadeja led the charge with a five-for. He made even Ravi Ashwin to play second fiddle. The left-arm spinner was that good on the day. Umesh Yadav generated serious pace after Virat Kohli changed his end. He was right on the money as well. The delivery that sent JP Duminy’s off stump for a walk, was special. Ishant Sharma ‘gate-crashed’ Dane Vilas with something even better. Catching was outstanding…India completely outplayed their opponents; on a pitch that allowed an even contest between bat and ball.
Usually, Indian bowlers lose their wicket-taking mojo when conditions don’t assist them. It became strikingly obvious in Johannesburg in December 2013, when South Africa had almost chased down a victory target of 458 in the fourth innings. It happened again in Wellington two months later with New Zealand notching up 680/8 declared in their second innings after conceding a 246-run first innings lead. From the late Tiger Pataudi to Kohli; every captain wanted turning pitches in India, because they have had been aware of the limitations of their bowlers.
Take Jadeja’s case; he had been brought back to the Team India fold for this series after taking 38 wickets in four Ranji Trophy matches. But those wickets were taken on Rajkot turners, which had left enough scope for scepticism. Jadeja had 16 wickets in five innings in the series before this game. But the dustbowls at Mohali and Nagpur had been a damper. The all-rounder will savour this performance. The best thing about his bowling today was the way he used the angles of the crease. The South African batters apparently had very little clue about what was happening. Faf du Plessis collected his third duck of the series. The shot he attempted under pressure suggested a brain freeze. He will return home with his confidence shattered. Jadeja, on the other hand, is rejuvenated.