Jasprit Bumrah, India’s priceless fast bowling mean machine, produced a hostile spell to guide India to a series-levelling seven-wicket victory against South Africa in the shortest game ever played in Test history. Bumrah (6/61 in 13.5 overs), the master practitioner of fast bowling, knocked the stuffing out of South Africa’s middle-order in a menacing morning spell though Aiden Markram (106 off 103 balls) fought like a lone ranger on a burning deck to take South Africa to 176 in 36.5 overs at stroke of lunch on day two.
A target of 79 even on the toughest of tracks wasn’t exactly a tall order and young Yashasvi Jaiswal (28) threw his bat around before skipper Rohit Sharma (16 not out) completed the formalities in the company of Shreyas Iyer (4 not out off 6) in just 12 overs.
This was India’s first victory at Newlands in seven attempts and one that would be remembered for the hostility exhibited by two Indian fast bowlers – Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, who produced a career-best six-wicket haul to bowl out South Africa for 55 in the first innings.
The series-levelling win gave Rohit the bragging rights of being only the second skipper after Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2010-11) to draw a series in the ‘Rainbow Nation’.
However, South Africa remains an unconquered territory for India, who have not been able to win a Test series in the country.
It was the shortest Test match ever in terms of overs bowled, bettering the previous best that involved Australia and South Africa at the MCG way back in 1932.
A total of 106.2 overs were bowled in this match while 109.2 overs were bowled in that 1932-match which Australia won. Eeerily, South Africa’s first innings had lasted for 23.2 overs, just like this game.
It would be surprising if the Newlands Stadium track doesn’t receive a “Below Average” rating from ICC match referee Chris Broad.
In fact, South African batting consultant and former national skipper Ashwell Prince had termed it as the “fastest Day 1 track” he has even seen at this venue but what worried him was the “inconsistent bounce” on offer.
As a venue, Newlands’ host body West Province Cricket Association is bleeding financially and one and a half day game is basically a loss making event for it.
Skipper Rohit won’t mind winning his first Test as a skipper in a SENA country but more importantly, the decisions he took was a reflection of his leadership acumen.
Playing Mukesh Kumar (4 wickets) in place of Shardul Thakur was a good move and also making the bowlers realise the ideal length to bowl after the goof up in Centurion.
The way Bumrah and Siraj read the pitch in the first essay was an example how the current generation doesn’t throw in the towel after a debilitating defeat.
On Thursday, the ball didn’t fly off the surface as much as it did on the opening day but with enough juice available to get movement off the surface, Bumrah from his back of length approach in the first essay reverted to a more traditional fuller length deliveries to set the alarm bells ringing for the Proteas.
This was his ninth five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
Sensing that he could soon run out of partners once David Bedingham (11) edged one behind the stumps and Kyle Verreynne misjudged the length while going for an unnecessary pull-shot, Markram started attacking the inexperienced Mukesh Kumar (2/56 in 10 overs) and the ever-profligate Prasidh Krishna (1/27 in 4 overs).
Markram, found it easy to muscle the balls through the gaps as he hit 17 fours and two mighty sixes off Prasidh.
In the morning, a vintage Bumrah was in full bloom on a tailor-made surface.
Starting at 62 for 3, South Africa quickly lost their middle-order to be 111 for 7 before Markram took charge in a 51-run stand with Kagiso Rabada where he launched into every Indian bowler.
It finally took first innings hero Siraj (1/31) to induce a mistimed heave from Markram, ensuring the lead did not cross 100-run mark.
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