The wait continues. It’s been 30 years since India’s first tour to this part of the world, but South Africa still remain unvanquished. It may still happen in Cape Town in a week’s time, but for now there’s a sense of happiness that the South African cricket rainbow is peeping through the clouds once again.
AS IT HAPPENED | SCORECARD
Everything was against the Proteas as they went into a 240-run chase in the fourth innings on a pitch that was playing plenty of tricks. The Indian attack led by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami had everything going their way and the five-hour wait on Thursday due to rain only added to the pressure of the hosts, who haven’t won anything significant of late.
But they have a leader in their ranks who believes in one motto: fight. Playing the first phase of his career under the shadow of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, Elgar (96*) has never been the player who the opposition is scared of. But leading South Africa into this phase of transition, the left-hander played an innings that he will probably rate as his best ever.
On Wednesday, he took body blows against Bumrah and Shami, but showed the courage to get behind the line of the deliveries all the time. And on Thursday under overcast skies and with the ball moving around, he played as close to his body as possible and found a way to leave those deliveries around the off-stump.
While he stuck around, Elgar gave the belief to Rassie van der Dussen (40), who isn’t the most technically proficient, that survival isn’t impossible on this track. Van der Dussen might have lost count of the number of times he had been beaten outside the off-stump, but he didn’t give his wicket away. The right-hander, in an 82-run third-wicket partnership, gave Proteas the belief that India can be beaten in a venue where they have never lost before.
It was the right-hander’s back-to-back boundaries in the 50th over bowled by Shami followed by five wides that swung the momentum completely in South Africa’s favour. There was a faint glimmer of hope for India when Shami finally dismissed Van der Dussen, but Shardul Thakur dropped No. 5 Temba Bavuma off his own bowling soon after that, which completely took the fight out of India.
With skies closing in and a good chance of rain on Friday, both Elgar and Bavuma decided that they had to put their feet on the accelerator. India’s cause wasn’t helped by the fact that paceman Siraj, struggling with a hamstring spasm he suffered on Day 1, couldn’t be brought back till the 63rd over.
The Indian team also complained about the fact that the ball was getting wet due to the water in the outfield. It meant that Ashwin couldn’t come into his own and the pacers, too, probably struggled to grip the ball properly. The effect of the heavy roller, too, played a part in the first hour. Elgar and Van der Dussen looked to score at a fast clip and anything pitched up was driven with conviction. And when the Indian pacers struggled to make headway on Elgar’s offstump, they drifted on middle and leg and the left-hander was prompt to put those away.
In Pics: Elgar steers South Africa to a series-levelling win over India in second Test
<p>South Africa captain Dean Elgar hit a superb 96 not out to guide South Africa to an emphatic seven wicket win in the second Test against India at the Wanderers on Thursday which levels the three-match series at 1-1. (AP Photo)</p>
And finally when the winning runs came off Elgar’s bat to make the series 1-1, there was probably a sense of happiness for all cricket fans. South African cricket, after all, is well and truly alive.