Day one of a new Test series in a foreign country is always a nervous moment, especially when it is played in countries like Australia / South Africa / England for teams from the subcontinent. The perennial question is always raised how will our batsmen adjust to the pace, bounce and movement on these pitches. Will our players show heart or shy away, whilst India’s four best batsman aided with Sehwag for a while had kept these nervous moments at bay. The last two series were 4-0 in England and Australia. However, most of the current team was not there to share this pain. Whilst Kohli played two matches of the 8, one in Perth and one in Adelaide, he got 74 in Perth and a century in Adelaide, so really he had no baggage. Apart from Dhoni really no one from this team was in the 8-0 drubbing.
The first two ODI’s had the tongues wagging and all of Africa were licking their lips, whilst almost all of India dreaded the Test series.
The gauntlet was thrown at India, Wanderer’s is their most bouncy pitch, talk of a fast bouncy track, add to that India won the toss. I suspect South Africa were surprised by the Indian decision to bat first! Full marks to M S Dhoni to bite the bullet and bat first, so many times Indian captains will look for an easier alternative and insert the opposition in and see them score 400+ and then be chasing the game.
In many ways this was also a message to the team that yes, we can do it. India began cautiously and Shikhar’s ego got the better of him. Vijay got stuck at one end and ended up falling to pressure that was rising.
Well, no Rahul at no.3 and no Sachin at no.4, Indian cricket fan was one nervous soul at that moment I tell you. However, contrary to anyone’s imagination, Virat Kohli batted with absolutely aplomb. No, this was not a stroke a ball century, but it was a wonderful display of proper, responsible batsmanship. He left well outside off, had a couple of close moments with Morkel but apart from that it was judicious stroke play till he got out. He was very decisive in leaving the ball or going for it. There were no half measures and it was an innings even Sachin would have been proud of. He went for the lose ball, be it short into his body for thumping pulls or outside off when he would lash at short wide ones, he was not running high on emotion and would go for any short ball that was too short keeping adrenalin under control and there was no tentativeness.
This will give a lot of people in the team assurance, calm the nerves and also raise hopes. Virat didn’t just get a hundred but scored a lot of psychological points more so for his team’s batsmen. Now is the time for the other batsman in the team to rally around and raise the level.
Pujara was solid and was settling in when a bad judgement by Kohli sent him away. Apparently though what is evident is he is not going to throw his wicket away and SA will have to bowl better. Rohit will be very disappointed at the way he threw his wicket away. He lost out on a golden opportunity to bat at a time when 50+ overs had been bowled the bowlers tired and the pitch flattened out. There will not be such easy chances always available in overseas conditions and Rohit would have done well to not let this go. One man’s failure is another man’s opportunity and Rahane cashed in on what Rohit missed.
Day 1 may look even, but psychologically it will serve India greatly, they now know they can compete and they are not going to be blown away.
South Africa came into this match after a lot of talk, the commentators, media all were cocky and had thought that the bowlers just had to turn up and India would be blown away. Infact at many times it looked South Africa were bowling far too wide outside off stump. Smith and his bowlers showed little imagination when Indian’s didn’t go after the wide outside off line. They know it now, they are in for a fight. They might adjust and work harder now on, however, on day one they were caught napping. Neither did they make the batsmen drive enough for my money and there in they made their biggest mistake nor did they properly work out Kohli with the short stuff with Morkel going around the wicket or Steyn going around the wicket and testing them out.
I guess the pace battery was just shell shocked at the application and clarity of judgement shown by our batters. At the end of the day if you clearly look at it, just Vijay was a batsman that they got out. Shikhar got out to his own ego, which was bigger than the team cause. Pujara was run out, Kohli & Sharma played lose shots to rather innocuous deliveries and got themselves out. So let’s say the world’s best bowling line up as it it dubbed had a rather poor day or were largely kept out at bay by some gritty and solid batting. 😀 😀
Frankly, never thought I would be able to write this after the first day’s play. 😀 My chest swells and it feels extremely wonderful to be in this position, lets hope we can add atleast another 100-150 runs tomorrow and then it will be over to the bowlers 😀
Photos Courtesy ESPNCRICINFO