A leaping Faf du Plessis grab, late yesterday afternoon, gave South Africa even more hope going into today’s final morning of the second and final Test against India at Kingsmead.
That catch sent Shikhar Dhawan packing for 19, completing a miserable series for the hard-hitting opener. He has watched his heady Test average shrink to a more realistic 45.57, as he was confronted by Test cricket’s best new-ball pair.
But that’s just cricket for you.
Dhawan would do worse than to locate Jacques Kallis for a drink when play ends today, after the South African giant signed off from getting his whites dirty with 115, his 45th Test ton.
The tributes for Kallis have been pouring in all week, and they will continue into the new year. His teammates tried to give him a guard of honour on the steps heading to the change-room when he was finally dismissed by the nagging Ravindra Jadeja.
That guard of honour ended abruptly, when Graeme Smith grabbed his departing rock, and nuzzled him in a manner that a father would a son who is moving away from the family home. The rest of the team, except Robbie Peterson, were on hand to almost carry him to the sheds, after Smith’s public display of affection.
“I think the whole team played those last 20 runs with Jacques. When he got out, I was busy padding up, so unfortunately I couldn’t be part of the guard of honour,” Peterson sighed. “But that’s life for you.”
When Peterson did make it out to the middle, he played a refreshing cameo that gave a pedestrian innings some impetus, clubbing 61 off 52 balls.
That knock included the shot of the day, a reverse-sweep that sailed into the East stands for six, as South Africa amassed 500.
“I think the directive after lunch was for us to get about 100 runs ahead,” Peterson explained.
“But Faf and I got a bit ahead of ourselves, and then realised we had India on the back foot.”
That injection of urgency after lunch gave South Africa a first innings lead of 166, which they hope will be enough to force a result.
“We’ve lost a lot of time in the game, but I think there is still enough time to force a result. The pitch has got a bit of variable bounce, and spin and reverse swing later on will be crucial for us,” Peterson said hopefully.
What made the Indian bowlers’ task even more challenging was MS Dhoni’s decision to use one ball for 146 overs. By the time the umpires confiscated it from his mitts, it looked like a mutt had been chewing on it since last Christmas.
South Africa will certainly not wait that long to unleash their second new ball, which should arrive not long after lunch today, weather permitting. It’s arrival could be decisive.
“Traditionally, we know that 10 wickets fall on the final day at Kingsmead. We’ve already got two,” Peterson added.
There is also the small matter of a fitting farewell for one Jacques Henry Kallis. Now that’s motivation for you. - The Star