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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

India vs South Africa: Table Mountain echoed as the Indians found their voice

Jasprit Bumrah’s magical ball to get Faf du Plessis had well and truly sent a shiver deep down the South African spine.

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Cape Town |
Updated: January 9, 2018 8:34:52 am
India vs South Africa, Ind vs SA, SA vs Ind, Jasprit Bumrah, Jasprit Bumrah wickets, Jasprit Bumrah bowling, sports news, cricket, Indian Express Jasprit Bumrah was a changed bowler in the second innings. He removed Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers. (Source: AP)

At 82/4, with the last specialist batsmen at the crease and the captain on strike, one saw it coming. It was too good a line to save for later, a made-to-order sledge just for an occasion like this. So in the nick of time, just as Jasprit Bumrah was about to start his run-up, someone from behind the stumps said it: “Inki phati padi hai Jassi, wahi jagah pe ball daal.” A true-in-spirit-not-in-letter, U/A translation of the line being: “Hit the same spot Jassi, these guys are s**t scared.”

Showing the kind of timing that’s the preserve of feel-good fictional movies where the punch is scripted to follow the punchline, Jassi — Jasprit Bumrah for the world outside the Indian dressing room — would pitch the ball just “there” and it would first kiss South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis’ glove and then reach the wicketkeeper’s. India was walking the talk. Bumrah’s magical ball had well and truly sent a shiver deep down the South African spine.

In days to come, whenever there will be talk of the 2018 New Year Test at Newlands, regardless of where Bumrah’s career graph heads, he will always be remembered for the “unplayable” imposter of a ball that first darted in, only to take off and con du Plessis. Sreesanth’s killer ball to Jacques Kallis at Durban 2011 still has an ever-growing Youtube viewership, five years after his spot-fixing shame.

The Bumrah ball though was clearly the high point of a very lively first session, though the near-empty grass banks and the sea of unfilled seats didn’t mirror the hype around Day 4. Monday morning compulsions had come in the way of Capetonians making it to Newlands. The stands weren’t really filled to watch this soap opera of a Test match. What next after South Africa’s second innings score of 65/2, 142 ahead with a lead, had an intrigue to it but no real audience.

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The calm in the stands made the sounds on the field echo around the stands. It was a surreal scene: An excited bunch of Indians chirping around, dreaming of a historic win in front of a sparse crowd that was comatose.

At the start of the day, Hardik Pandya showed how he was a real all-rounder – batting, bowling, fielding and cheer-leading being his skill set. From mid-wicket, he would shout out to support the day’s first two bowlers — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. With both bowlers making life difficult for the overnight batsmen – Kagiso Rabada and Hashim Amla — with the perfect good length, Pandya played the motormouth fielder square of the wicket. “Wahi line, Shami bhai,” he would yell. From behind the stumps, the bowler would get more love. “Lala, great bowling,” the slip cordon took turns to be behind the bowler. In case the decibel level dropped, Pandya would revive it with a loud call to the team: “Bowler ke peechhe pad jao (Get behind the bowler).”

Lala, aka Shami, would strike first. His perfectly pitched away-going ball resulting in Rohit Sharma just about managing to get his fingers under the ball. That’s what the TV umpire thought. Not many in the South Africa dressing room seemed to agree. Coach Ottis Gibson, standing on the balcony, threw up his arms as India had put a foot in the door.

Spotting the opportunity, captain Kohli would go up in a frenzy. The field was abuzz and it happens in such excitement that the instructions and observations get louder. “Upar nahi aage” would be a constant chant for the bowlers. They were being asked to stick to the line that they had been told to bowl. “Wahi jo subah bataaya tha,” Kohli would tell Bumrah.

Interestingly, while crossing the South African batsmen between overs, the conversations and chants would be in English. They wanted them to know how many wickets they had plans to take before lunch. The target had been four in the early part of the session. “Chaar wicket lena hai lunch se pehle,” Hardik said. In an hour’s time, he wanted eight and later all 10.

Bumrah was the man of the moment. Newlands was seeing the making of India’s newest Test bowler. The run-up was the kind one associates with bowlers wearing coloured clothing but his length, line and deadly bounce was Test-friendly. Once again, he would be told from behind the stump to bowl ‘upar’ since Quinton de Kock opening his shoulder, loved to drive through the covers. Bumrah would get de Kock’s inside edge with a very mean in-cutter, another of his specialities that landed on a full length. The eerie silence would return after the Indian celebration was over.

The only time the stadium came alive was when Dale Steyn, who had been sitting in the dugout nursing his ankle, walked out to bat. They all stood to clap for the injured bowler who was bearing pain but wanting to be counted.

AB de Villiers, all along, slightly circumspect now, knew he had to throw his bat around. Running runs wasn’t going to happen with a limping non-striker. He would get caught on the boundary rope. The Indian screeches and screams could be heard on the foothills of the Table Mountain.

However, later in the day, at around 4.45 local time when Vernon Philander took his sixth, and the day’s final wicket, the chants would have been heard on the mountain top.

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