Cape Town - Day
one of the first Test between South Africa and India at Newlands, with due
respect to bludgeoned prior visitors Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, was the belated
first genuine examination of the Proteas under the guiding hand of Ottis Gibson.
And if we
were to put it in Facebook or Twitter parlance, a salvo of enthusiastic “likes”
would have been deemed fitting, by stumps, from supporters of the home team.
copyright not belonged in a sense to an earlier head coach of the national
team, Mickey Arthur, it would have been extremely tempting to brand the
Proteas’ style of play on a memorable, sun-soaked Friday “brave cricket”.
Hmm, so how
about audacious - a touch cavalier, even - cricket as an alternative, then?
fading shadows of the first day against the No 1-ranked tourists, there was
good reason to reflect on a discernible, general positivity, first reflected in
team selection and then transferred in several respects to the manner in which
Faf du Plessis and his troops went about their business for the bulk of the
There may be
dissenting or tempering views, particularly from the Subcontinent, but a
personal inclination was to unreservedly suggest “clear advantage Proteas” -
based on events on the challenging but far from unreasonable pitch - when the
engrossing combat ended just after 18:00.
the balance had shifted quite violently by then from the time when, just 29
deliveries into the keenly-awaited hostilities, India were understandably
whooping it up with SA a woozy-eyed 12 for three and Bhuvneshwar Kumar quite
offered the Proteas 286 from there, they’d have bitten your arm off for it: if
you’d later offered them “India 28 for three” (including Virat Kohli) in
response, they’d have chewed clean through the other, leaving a macabre mess of
But that was
how the Friday cookie did crumble, and the Proteas’ position may feasibly look
even more commanding before lunch on Saturday, as the morning session at
Newlands is traditionally generous to seam bowlers - the first in this Test
match did absolutely nothing to buck that trend.
an XI that included only six specialist batsmen – remember, SA have not played
true A-league opponents at Test level in almost half a year - the hosts
simultaneously served clear notice that they intend a “go for the throat”
formula against the Indians, with a multi-sting attack probably providing very
belligerent, war-like gesture was Du Plessis making the decision, and it could
not have been that easy, to take first strike after winning the toss; Kohli
claimed he would have bowled anyway, which only piled the pressure on the home
nation not to make a pig’s ear of things at the crease.
backdrop, it spoke volumes in the captain’s favour that he - along with old
Affies school buddy AB de Villiers - was so instrumental in the major
turnaround in play after India’s early teeth-baring.
114-run partnership for the fourth wicket was quite priceless in value and,
given the any-ball-could-have-your-name-on-it circumstances, the respective innings
of sixty-something weight played by both Du Plessis and De Villiers almost
seemed like centuries for the gumption and varying skills under pressure they demonstrated.
was a bit more obdurate than he was swashbuckling, and that is anything but a
criticism: keep in mind that he has not been in the middle competitively since
retiring hurt on 91 in the East London ODI against the Bangladeshis back on
meanwhile, was consummately just De Villiers … urgent, enterprising and hugely thrilling,
regardless of situation, and only underlining how vital a cog (not to mention
crowd-puller in economically tough times) he remains in the Proteas’ machine.
Put it this
way: if he had succumbed in single figures, it is entirely possible South
Africa might have been bundled out for a total inside the 150-mark.
natural instincts went a long way to ensuring that, even as they were bowled
out well inside 75 overs - hardly ideal for the team batting first in a Test -
the Proteas importantly sported a vibrant run rate of 3.90 to the over, which
arguably carried them some way past a “par” total.
Nor did SA,
on the day, look noticeably as though they were offering too dangerously long a
tail; the majority of their batsmen from No 7 down – including the so
gladdeningly back-in-Test-whites Dale Steyn - knuckled down to the gritty
rear-guard action with some aplomb.
favours the brave - sorry, the audacious - then the Proteas have got what they
At least so
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