Amid the DRS controversy and a scintillating ton by Rishabh Pant, there lies a match that is heading towards an absolute blockbuster finish. South Africa are ahead of this game with 101 for 2 and need another 11 runs with eight wickets in hand. The ray of hope for India is that the gritty old Dean Elgar is back in the hut. But, Keegan Petersen at the other end is playing a gem. However, never count out a counter-attack from the Indian bowlers, especially in the presence of Virat Kohli.
Something similar happened in the 2018 tour to South Africa. In the Johannesburg Test, South Africa were in an absolutely strong position at 124 for 1. A set Hashim Amla was dismissed for 51 and South Africa were bundled out for 177. They lost nine wickets for just 53 runs. Mohammed Shami with a five-for in that innings was the star. Similarly, South Africa in the first Test of the 2018 tour at Newlands, had set a target of 208 and their bowlers managed to bundle out India for just 135 and win by 72 runs.
In the last three times teams have batted in the fourth innings at Newlands, prior to this Test, teams have scored 163 runs on an average. Out of which two times teams have been bundled out for less than 150. India will be fancying this fact.
Why wouldn’t they when their bowlers have a good record in the first session of day four. In Tests since 2020, Indian bowlers have bagged a wicket every 20.1 runs and 48.9 balls in the first session of day four. This is the best they have bowled across the first session of all days. In fact, on none of the other days their balls/wicket ratio is below 55 in the first session.
As far as the Indian bowlers are concerned, they will be dependent on the Jasprit Bumrah-Shami pair to give them the head start. Bumrah in particular, has the tendency to do well since the start of his third spell. In Tests since 2020, in the second innings, Bumrah has bagged a wicket every 34 balls in his third spell, every 51 balls in his fourth spell and every 19.5 balls in his fifth spell.
On the other hand, South African batsmen in the same time frame have been dismal in the first session of day four. They have lost 14 wickets in five innings at an average of 17.6 and a balls/dismissal ratio of 42.5. On none of the other days, their batsmen average less than 25 and have a balls/dismissal ratio of less than 50 in the first session.
Petersen holds the key
The session data surely should be a confidence booster for India. But, there is one young batsman who stands in India’s way and that is Petersen. Following a poor outing in the first Test, the number three batsman of South Africa has pounced onto each of the opportunities provided.
He started off the second Test with a well-compiled 62 in the first innings and a good knock of 28 in the second innings. In this match, he is even better. After scoring 72 in the first innings, he is unbeaten on 48 in this innings.
Rassie van der Dussen in the last match played a vital knock in the fourth innings, to help South Africa reach the target. As has been the case this series, Temba Bavuma has been a tough customer, irrespective of which innings.
In any case, Van der Dussen and Bavuma do not possess a great record at Newlands. Overall, in six matches, Bavuma has scored at an average of 33.7 at Newlands, out of which, he averages 46.2 in the first innings. But, in the two innings, he has batted second, he averages only 2.5. Van der Dussen on the other hand in the lone match he played in the second innings at Newlands, was dismissed for 17.
Indian bowlers have done the unexpected in the recent past. Their chance of winning this Test and reckoning history is a minute one. But, Kohli is one of those kinds of captains who cling on to small opportunities and pounce on the opposition.