Centurion, January 17 (KMW): It was a brown banana peel for South Africa. Morne Morkel said it was 100% like bowling in India. Virat Kohli batted as if he was in India. However, in the end South Africa not only dodged a bullet, they caught the bullet and shred it into pieces with their determined batting, ruthless bowling and sensational fielding, beating India by 135 runs and winning back the Freedom Trophy.
South Africa began the day needing seven wickets, but closed the match even before the lunch break. Lungi Ngidi ended his impressive debut with a six-for, but the start of the final collapse was self-inflicted. When he was under pressure to keep his place in the XI in the West Indies, Cheteshwar Pujara ran himself out. In Centurion, he became only the 23rd player to be run out twice in the same Test.
As with the first-ball duck in the first innings, Pujara’s mouth wrote a cheque his knees couldn’t cash. With AB de Villiers and Ngidi chasing after a ball, Pujara overestimated his speed and was caught short. The other overnight batsman, Parthiv Patel, batting ahead of Rohit Sharma, soon hooked Kagiso Rabada in the air, and Morne Morkel took a splendid diving catch after running to his right at fine leg.
Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin have provided resistance with the bat earlier in the series, but this time they couldn’t. Pandya repepated his first innings dismissal from Cape Town, edging when looking to ramp a wide bouncer. Ashwin fell on the loose drive. Seven down, India still needed 200 to win.
Rohit and Mohammed Shami then added 54 runs to delay the inevitable and bring India to the brink of the lunch. However, in the last over before the scheduled lunch break, de Villiers pulled off a sensational catch diving forward at deep fine leg. Rohit had got enough bat on his pull shot, which resulted in a low flat offering. Given only a split second, de Villiers judged it perfectly, took the required paces, threw himself at the ball and caught it smoothly. Not for a moment did he look like dropping the chance. Usually these low catches go to the third umpire; there was no need here
Lunch was now delayed, and moments later, Ngidi had Shami caught at mid-on, his fifth wicket. The crowd wasn’t big given it was Wednesday morning, but the appreciation was whole-hearted and Ngidi soaked it all in, kissing the badge on his shirt and then walking back to fine leg to an even bigger applause. He went on to make it one better in the next over and end the Test.