“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.”
― Alice Hoffman
You could easily add cricket to the above and it would still hold true. Predict in cricket at your own peril, who could have predicted the Australian’s winning 3-0 in the Ashes and who could have predicted India’s intensity going into the first test after their uninspiring show in the ODI’s. The game of glorious uncertainties was at its best at the Wanderer’s at Johannesburg.
A team was written off, Steyn and co mocked at the uncomfortable Indian’s against genuine pace, the pitch was hailed as bouncy and pacy, a grave had been dug to bury the Indians. Yet, India won the toss elected to bat, surprising the commentators and fans, the captain perhaps sent a message to his own team about a belief in its abilities. The team stood up and fought. A wonderfully crafted innings by Kohli forming the back bone and India raised a moderate but fighting total of 280! They did not cow down to the short stuff and actually most of their wickets on the first day were to their own faults more than the bowler’s skill. The pitch had enough in it and yet India buckled and put out wonderful judgement of the off stump and played judiciously. At the end of day 2 India could say they had their noses ahead.
Day two saw a comeback of sorts and after bowling India for 280 and the score at 130/1 you had to say SA were running away with it. Amazingly when you are just ready to give up hope, cricket bites you back and India took 5 wickets for 16 runs to wreck the African top order and all of a sudden they could think of a BIG lead! Yet again an African allrounder fought and ensured not too much was given. Whilst India again ended day two ahead, on day 3 morning almost all of that initiative was wrested back and a slender 40 run lead was yielded. Africa were to bat last which meant they were behind the game. End of day 3 and India had completely taken control of the Test. Two young batsmen from India dug their heels in whilst the bowlers were fresh and fought it out and pulverized the home team in the last session that gave 175 runs to make all three days belong to them. Day 4 was sort of the same, however, India could not post 500 lead, they had 450+ which was perceived by one and all as enough.
458 has never been chased successfully in the history of the game in the 4th innings of a Test Match. 8 wickets in hand Africa started day 5 with caution, Indian’s attacked and pitched up the ball a lot more than African bowlers and leaked runs but looked for wickets. Two African star’s though had other idea’s from judiciously batting and punishing the lose ball and displaying amazing restrain the two went into tea on day 5 with the Test match alive and left the crowd in huge anticipation of what could be in the last session.
As the end came neigh the Indian’s were perhaps staring at an unlikely loss, Africa were favourites and by the time the mandatory last hour began you almost started regretting why India bowled that one over extra. The game was Africa’s however, unlike in a limited overs match in a Test match apart from a win and a loss there is the draw as well as a possible result. I think that adds more drama, when players are not sure whether to go for a win or a loss. De’villier’s getting out at such a delicate situation threw major drama into the event. A silly run out of Faf Duplesis who had played most wonderfully ensured that crowd could not bear to watch the nail biting stuff.
Its easy to say South Africa should have gone for the win or criticise India for bowling bouncers at Steyn, but when faced with such a situation it is difficult to predict how most would go about it. In the end you also had a feeling that both the teams had fought tooth and nail and that neither deserved to lose. In the end cricket won, the uncertainty of the game won. Not the teams but the sport won. There are victories and there are losses and then there are these wonderful draws that are unmatched!
Pics Courtesy : Espncricinfo.com