Proteas' wickets tumble as India fight back

2013-12-19 15:59

India wrenched control of proceedings at the Wanderers after tea, jolting the Proteas with five quick wickets, reducing them from 130/1 to 145/6 in the space of 39 balls.

The fightback was led by the irrepressible Ishant Sharma, who snared Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis in successive balls. Amla shouldered arms to one that nipped off the seam while Kallis had no answer to an inswinging delivery that rapped him on the pads.

Captain Graeme Smith had to hold the fort but he was prised out by a superb inswinger from his nemesis, Zaheer Khan, who took his wicket for the seventh time in nine test matches.

There was no improvement as JP Duminy and AB de Villiers went in quick succession, both victims of Mohammed Shami. The former guided a wide delivery to Murali Vijay at first slip while De Villiers was trapped in front two balls later. In that crazy period, the shape of the game changed irrevocably.

Earlier on day two of the Test, Smith, along with Amla, toughed out a session in which the visitors gave nothing away, leaving the match evenly poised.

It was one of those sessions where Khan, Sharma and Shami toiled without reward as the clouds refused to lift in Joburg. It was not muggy but there was enough moisture in the air to trouble the South African batsmen.

The three-pronged Indian attack made the most of the conditions, seemingly having learnt from how their South African counterparts used them.

But a patient and unbeaten 81-run second wicket partnership between Smith and Amla gradually blunted the Indian attack with the cherry getting older.

While Shami was the most frugal of the Indian bowlers, the returning Sharma was the most impressive Indian bowler on display.

His height and ability to make the ball talk off the seam made life uncomfortable for the batsmen and it came as no surprise when he took wickets, getting rid of the unfortunate Alviro Petersen leg before with a straight delivery; Amla, bowled for 36; and Jacques Kallis for a duck.

It meant Petersen’s middling test form continued with his inability to get past the 20 mark. It left the Proteas at 37/1.

Smith should have been out on 19 off the superb Khan but Ravichandran Ashwin shelled an easy chance at first slip, preventing the left-handed Khan from taking Smith’s wicket for the seventh time in test matches.

It was an intriguing battle where the South African captain tried to counter Khan’s swing by getting outside the line of off stump.

Khan could not prevent Smith from getting to his 38th test 50 off 98 balls. It was an innings that required immense skill and patience but Smith has plenty of those in reserve.

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