The wonderers : A Test that turned in the space of 10 deliveries

Zaheer KhanWhen du Plessis was run out with the score on 442, South Africa’s tail shut shop — opting not to go after the chase of 458. The hosts eventually ended the match eight runs short of history. AP/Reuters

The match had turned in the space of 10 deliveries. Having come together with their team staring defeat, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers had batted South Africa into a position where they believed a world-record chase was within their grasp. Into the third session of the final day of a rivetting Test, History beckoned.

South Africa now required 56 runs to win with 13 overs to go and two centurions at the crease with India needing six wickets for the win. India were on the backfoot and the number of men manning the slips had dropped from four to one, with a significant more defending the boundaries. That was when de Villiers inside-edged Ishant Sharma onto his stumps. In the very next over, JP Duminy did the same against Mohammad Shami.

The equation had changed. The partisan South African supporters had just been silenced around the Wanderers. The minor Indian contingent in the stands had just found their voice. Now the visitors stood within four wickets of a famous overseas win, and they had 68 deliveries to seal it in. The pendulum had swung. India were back in front and now poised to go for the kill.

So close

Out walked Vernon Philander, fresh from a half-century in the first innings. At the other end, du Plessis, playing the innings of his life, had decided to shut shop. Or so you thought as he played out an over of Shami. Philander, though, had other ideas. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had brought in his field. The burly pacer's response was connecting four meaty blows to the fence.

Three ferocious cut shots and a powerful pull shot, Philander had brought South Africa within 20 runs of their target with four overs remaining. The possession of the reins had shifted back into the home team's hands. The Wanderers was buzzing again. The Indian flags weren't being waved with the same ferocity anymore.

... contd.

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