Friday was about two spells: one with the old ball, the other with the semi-new one. It was about the end of an unprecedented drought. It was about pace and purpose. It was about reverse-swing bowling of the highest quality. It was about the chainsaw celebrations. It was about Dale Steyn and his six-wicket haul, one that pegged India back by some distance on Day Two of the deciding Test at Kingsmead.
And by the time stumps were drawn at 06:32 pm on a rain-affected day, the sun was still around. South Africa retired for the evening with the scoreboard reading 82/0, 252 runs behind India’s 334. Graeme Smith (35*) and Alviro Peterson (46*) batted for 20 overs without much ado.
Let’s talk about the Steyn show. After claiming Shikhar Dhawan with a bouncer on the first morning of the Wanderers Test, the world’s fastest bowler had gone 69 overs without success. It was getting to him. That he had lost the top spot in the ICC rankings –– to teammate Vernon Philander –– may have added to his frustrations.
The entire morning session was lost to rain and when play began at 12:40 pm local time, Steyn had some unfinished business. The pitch, which was as flat as a pancake on Day One, was obviously moist now. And it wasn’t entirely bright. Steyn knew it was time to strike.
Twice he had induced the edge, twice it flew past the man near the gully. Vijay and Pujara were lucky to have survived. Then Steyn exploded. And how!
After peppering Pujara with a salvo of bouncers, he bowled a fullish delivery on off stump, inviting the batsman to play the drive. Pujara took the bait, but didn’t move his feet. He just ended up pushing at the ball and edged it to the wicketkeeper. He made 70.
In his next over, Steyn targeted Vijay’s ribs with a scorcher of a ball and the opener, who was batting on 97, ended up gloving it. AB de Villiers pouched this one too.
If you thought Hashim Amla’s dismissal off Ishant Sharma at the Wanderers was a result of a bad leave, then you should have watched how Rohit Sharma shouldered arms to a delivery that pitched just outside the line of off stump. It was an error in judgment, nay imprudence, as Sharma found his middle stump missing. He fell for a golden duck. Steyn’s spell read 5-2-19-3. Mind you, the ball was 71 overs old.
Steyn bowled a few overs with the second new ball, too, but Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane kept him at bay. But when Graeme Smith brought him on in the 103rd over, he had probably told his best bowler to finish the job. Steyn did just that. He had MS Dhoni caught in the slip and tail-enders Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma caught behind. This effort yielded figures of 5-1-13-3.
So in 50 overs, India went from 181/1 to 334 all out, with Steyn getting 6/99. Morne Morkel added the scalps of Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami to register figures of 3/50. JP Duminy also got one, that off Ravindra Jadeja for a duck that gave Jacques Kallis his 200th Test catch.
In the middle of all this madness, Ajinkya Rahane held fort with a composed and unbeaten 51. If not for the Mumbaikar’s 66-run stand with Virat Kohli, who made a counter-attacking 46, his 55-run association with MS Dhoni (24) and Smith’s decision to persist with the utterly ordinary Robin Peterson, India would have been in deep waters.