Cape Town – Vernon Philander took six second-innings wickets as the Proteas beat India by 72 runs in the first Test at Newlands in what was a roller-coaster affair from start to finish.
As it happened: Proteas win by 72 runs
If this is the benchmark for what will follow in the rest of the series, then cricket fans are in for a treat at Centurion and at the Wanderers.
With day three completely washed out, this Test match was completed within nine sessions over just three days.
In total, 18 wickets fell on day four.
From the very first session of the match, when South Africa were reduced to 12/3 after captain Faf du Plessis had won the toss and elected to bat, the momentum shifted numerous times between the visitors and their hosts.
The wicket undoubtedly played its part, and while it was clearly seam-friendly, batters could get their runs through a combination of application, positivity and a bit of luck.
The match provided Kardik Pandya’s blistering 93 in the first innings, Dale Steyn’s career-threatening heel injury and a Proteas collapse that saw them lose eight wickets in the first session on day four, but in the end the home seamers had more gas in the tank than the Indians.
Defending just 208 in the final innings, South Africa’s bowlers were relentless despite India getting to 30/0 in their chase.
Vernon Philander (6/42) was superb in the second innings as India were bowled out for 135.
Morne Morkel (2/39) and Kagiso Rabada (2/41) were just as fired up, and it took a united effort from the pace trio after the South Africans had lost Steyn to injury.
Steyn, remarkably, still featured on day 4 as he hobbled out to the middle to bat at No 11 despite having spent most of the morning in a moonboot.
That decision highlighted just how desperate the situation was for the Proteas, who were blown away in the morning session by the Indians, bowled out for 130.
Hashim Amla (4), Faf du Plessis (0) and Quinton de Kock all failed while De Villiers’ 35 was the only effort of substance from a South African perspective.
At tea, India were 82/7, needing 126 more runs.
It was always highly unlikely, but when Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar came out for the final session of the day it was like the mayhem that had occurred just 20 minutes earlier was forgotten.
The lower order pair were measured in their approach, taking the runs when they were on offer and defending with aplomb.
Their 49-run partnership got South Africans worried, but when Quinton de Kock took a sharp catch standing up to the stumps off Philander, Ashwin was removed for 37 and with him went India’s hopes.
Philander had his fifth just two balls later when Mohammed Shami was caught by Faf du Plessis in the slips, and it was just a matter of time.
Indian No 11 Jusprit Bumrah was out first ball, also caught by Du Plessis, as Philander took the last three wickets in four balls, securing an epic victory for South Africa.
Scores in brief
SA 286 (De Villiers 65, Du Plessis 62, De Kock 43, Kumar 4/87) and 130 (De Villiers 35, Markram 34, Shami 3/28, Bumrah 3/39)
India 209 (Pandya 93, Philander 3/33, Rabada 3/34) and 135 (Philander 6/42)
SA won by 72 runs