Whichever way this match goes, one thing is for sure: Ravindra Jadeja will be MS Dhoni’s go-to spinner in overseas Tests for some time to come.
Replacing an out-of-sorts R Ashwin for the series decider at Kingsmead, the left-arm tweaker from Saurashtra sent down 32 overs — 16 in the first session — to emerge a better, smarter and mature bowler. In the process, he accounted for four of the five South African wickets that fell on the day.
In fact, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to say that Jadeja’s performance was the lone positive for India. Employing a tight line and bowling accurately and quicker through the air for the better part of the day, he dismissed openers Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen in the morning before claiming big fish AB de Villiers between lunch and tea. He also had JP Duminy just before a light drizzle prompted the umpires to send the players home.
Jadeja was useful in every sense of the word: he got through his overs quickly (sometimes in less than a minute-and-a-half), restricted the flow of runs, got turn, extracted bounce and broke partnerships. At close of play, his figures read 37-9-87-4. Make no mistake: he will be in business on the last two days as well.
“People say I get wickets only at home. I have got four already and I hope to get that fifth one,” a delighted Jadeja said, adding, “but for now, we need to get Jacques Kallis out soon”
Smith and Petersen took off from where they had left on Friday evening and it was Jadeja who gave India the breakthrough. Prompting the left-hander to dance down the wicket, Jadeja got one to bounce a bit. The ball hit the top half of the blade and went up high in the air before Shikhar Dhawan took a brilliant running backwards.
Minutes later, Jadeja got the better of Petersen with a dart-like delivery. It turned, bounced and hit the shoulder of the bat before landing in the palms of M Vijay at first slip. Jadeja failed to trouble Jacques Kallis and de Villiers during their 127-run stand, but that’s because the batting giants were on a mission. When he pitched it up, they drove for lofted him down the ground; when he bowled short, he cut or pulled him. At times, he seemed clueless.
But Jadeja persisted with his methods. Two deliveries after de Villiers reverse-swept him for four, he had the half centurion nick one to slip. Later, MS Dhoni’s decision to continue with the old ball –– it was over a 100 overs old –– paid off when another dart from Jadeja had Duminy caught in front.