South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 3rd day December 20, 2013

Smith runs out of options and ideas

With Morne Morkel out of action and Imran Tahir misfiring, South Africa's captain endured a difficult juggle with limited resources
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Match Point: 'Can't understand Smith's tactics'

It took a few seconds and some eye-rubbing to realise which South African was assigned to bowl the over before tea. AB de Villiers. As if that wasn't astounding enough, there was the sight of Hashim Amla strapping on the wicketkeepers' pads and gloves to take in. It really happened.

Such sights are not all that unusual. When things are trundling along and not much is happening, a captain has to try something different to catch the opposition off-guard. Graeme Smith did it in Dubai when he brought Dean Elgar on to bowl to a Pakistan partnership that had racked up 197. Misbah-ul-Haq tried to slog him into the next Emirate and was caught at slip. Concentration can lapse, mistakes can happen.

The difference between that day and this one was in the message, as Daryll Cullinan explained on the tea-time Match Point show on this website. Elgar is a part-time spinner with 33 first-class wickets and does turn his arm over on occasion. De Villiers, before this one, had only bowled 38 overs in his decade-long first-class career, and last bowled in a Test match seven years ago. And it's not as though Smith didn't have other options.

Apart from JP Duminy, who had not bowled a ball at that stage, there was Faf du Plessis, who bowls occasionally, or Smith himself. In hindsight, he probably turned to de Villiers for a little bit of fun but with India 140 runs ahead with eight wickets in hand, it may not have been the ideal time for a laugh. By stumps, it turned out South Africa would have little reason for giggles of any description, as they appeared bereft of ideas.

Their day had already threatened to be difficult in the over before lunch when Morne Morkel was helped off the field after hurting his ankle. He had only bowled two overs before that but the signs were obvious that he would have an important role to play. In the 12 balls he bowled, he generated steep bounce, which could have helped keep India quiet. With him out of the equation, someone else had to do that job.

The person should have been Imran Tahir. Although he is a naturally attacking bowler, Tahir had to contain as well. His first ball today was evidence he could not.

Tahir offered a full toss first up and leaked runs in a manner somewhat reminiscent of his performance in Adelaide in November 2012, particularly when he dropped Cheteshwar Pujara on 51 off his own bowling. His confidence seemed to dip after that, and his bouquet of overpitched deliveries and full tosses became rosier. Selection-wise, South Africa may be wondering if they erred by picking Tahir, considering the opposition.

The Indian line-up is confident and comfortable against legspin and with Tahir's history of over-enthusiasm leading to lack of control, they may ask themselves if a conservative option would have worked better. Robin Peterson was in the squad and could have played the holding role or they could have opted for another seamer, with Duminy operating as the spinner, although today's evidence may contradict that.

Besides offering little threat, which is not Duminy's primary role, he also could not keep his end quiet. Smith had no choice but to use him for parts of the day as a stop-gap to avoid over-bowling the three seamers he had left.

Already, Jacques Kallis' workload was more than ideal. His usual quota had previously been described as 10-12 overs a day but he had to bowl 14. He used the short ball well and attacked the stumps to produce two lbw shouts, but he seemed to lose bite later on.

The same could be said of Dale Steyn, who had a rare wicketless day. As Vernon Philander pointed out, "he did not bowl badly"; he just didn't find any swing. Steyn cannot be expected to produce in every innings and Philander said he could easily "rock up and take five tomorrow," but it was obvious what a misfiring Steyn and an injured Morkel can do to South Africa's morale.

Philander did his part in leading the attack. He was South Africa's best bowler on the day and in his first two spells looked as though he would take a wicket every other ball. He got good bounce, he beat the bat, he moved the ball just enough to create tension. Most importantly, he zoned in consistently on an off-stump target.

That was the main difference between the South African and Indian bowlers and Philander recognised it. "They attacked the stumps all the time. We didn't do that well, even in the first innings," he said. Despite Philander being the person who was doing that, he was used less than he could have been.

After spells of five, two and five overs in the first 33 overs of India's innings, he returned for two spells of three overs each, with long breaks in between. He was nursing a toothache and is still in some discomfort, which may have prompted Smith to use him sparingly, although he indicated he was ready for a bigger workload. "We knew when Morne went down, we would have to bowl a bit more," he said. "Luckily I am not in Graeme's shoes at the moment."

South Africa fought back after a middling first day and Philander believed they can do it again. But they will need a sharper plan this time, against batsmen who have adjusted and thrived in these conditions. "They left very well when they came in and the spinners were whom they attacked," he said. "Then they made the seamers come back on when they were tired."

That means it will be up to Tahir to find a way to contain so the quicks can attack and South Africa can embark on some form of damage limitation. "There is not a lot of turn on offer but hopefully he [Tahir] will get a plan together sometime soon," Philander said.

Playing an 11-a-side game with ten men is tough. Trying to do it with nine is tougher. That is essentially what Smith was left to work with. If South Africa are to salvage something from this bowling performance and give their batsmen a chance to save the game, he either cannot be left in that position again or has to learn to manage it better.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Beertjie on December 22, 2013, 16:49 GMT

    Fabulous game but Tahir still has to go. Agree with @AltafPatel on (December 21, 2013, 14:06 GMT) that they will need "one more seamer in place of a spinner at Kingsmead. Tsotsobe and Abbott to replace Tahir and Morkel. Tough on Kleinveldt but Abbott's return to form warrants a punt.

  • Greatest_Game on December 22, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    @ Faakhir Mehmood thinks that "Steyn historically has never intimidated Indian batsmen like he has prevailed over batsmen from other countries...."

    How strange then that Steyn's best bowling figures were in ……. India!

  • AltafPatel on December 21, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    @Rajshekar Gudapaty You mean India is the best test team who lose their last 8 consecutive overseas tests ! For SA, they face similar kind of situation recently against Pak in first test in UAE but came back great in next match. So don't give expert advice based on just 1 innings.

  • AltafPatel on December 21, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    It's not about Tahir's form, but selection in wrong match. Even Ashvin bowled only 6 overs in first innings which means pitch doesn't have anything for spinners. Smith as home captain and with much experience knew that very well then why he didn't go for one more seamer in place of spinner ? It's good example of failure of over-management. Both Smith and Donald made the mistakes.

  • Roger.A. on December 21, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    SA rips apart a batting line up and people jump up "best bowling line up in the world"...perhaps it was bad shot selection and bad batting. a batting line up stands against SA and people go "oh! what bad bowing (the same which had 4 best seamers)", no one credits the batting.

    Here I am sure it was the case of great skills, both mental and defensive, shown by India. There were hundred's of wicket taking deliveries bowled. Just brilliant from Pujara and Kohli. Once they were gone, the pitch seemed a different one.

  • Roger.A. on December 21, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    @Cpt_Meanster: I din't call them that. It was a sarcastic take on those who call them that. three_tamil has understood my meaning. My intentions were to hit out on those who instead of appreciating Indian batters theorize as to how Morkel's absence have aided India. If Steyn had gotten himself injured, they would have said he would have ripped through the Indian line up in not time!

  • on December 21, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    Truth is that India's performance has stunned everyone. South Africa looks tired. Their hastily arranged ODI series against Pakistan may seem like a bad idea after all. Secondly the one sided ODI series against India lead Proteas to take Indians easy and get over confident. Steyn historically has never intimidated Indian batsmen like he has prevailed over batsmen from other countries. Indian victory by a margin well over 200 runs seems imminent.

  • on December 21, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    To say Tahir was out of form is doing him a huge favour. He was simply too afraid not about bowling form. He does not have a big heart. He needs counselling more than practice

  • tanstell87 on December 21, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    Kolkata 2010....with India trailing 0-1 in 2 match series and desperate to win the test...Dhoni lost services of Zaheer Khan after only 6 overs in 2nd innings...with only a day left to pick remaining 8 South African wickets to win the test & draw the series & retain their number 1 test ranking, India had only 3 bowlers - Harbhajan,Ishant & Amit Mishra...they won the test with 8 overs to spare...

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on December 21, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    Maybe it's time to step back and view the situation. South Africa have lost the services of a bowler - they now have three frontliners. India has the same. South Africa has world number 1 and 2 operational. India probably has number 15 and 30. South Africa and India both have one specialist spinner and a few part-time options in that department. South Africa are a batsman short - but on home turf and against a team who is nothing but a bully on subcontinental roads. All this could have been said yesterday, but it would not have been fair. Now that there is performance to speak of - God's sake, wake up!

  • Beertjie on December 22, 2013, 16:49 GMT

    Fabulous game but Tahir still has to go. Agree with @AltafPatel on (December 21, 2013, 14:06 GMT) that they will need "one more seamer in place of a spinner at Kingsmead. Tsotsobe and Abbott to replace Tahir and Morkel. Tough on Kleinveldt but Abbott's return to form warrants a punt.

  • Greatest_Game on December 22, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    @ Faakhir Mehmood thinks that "Steyn historically has never intimidated Indian batsmen like he has prevailed over batsmen from other countries...."

    How strange then that Steyn's best bowling figures were in ……. India!

  • AltafPatel on December 21, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    @Rajshekar Gudapaty You mean India is the best test team who lose their last 8 consecutive overseas tests ! For SA, they face similar kind of situation recently against Pak in first test in UAE but came back great in next match. So don't give expert advice based on just 1 innings.

  • AltafPatel on December 21, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    It's not about Tahir's form, but selection in wrong match. Even Ashvin bowled only 6 overs in first innings which means pitch doesn't have anything for spinners. Smith as home captain and with much experience knew that very well then why he didn't go for one more seamer in place of spinner ? It's good example of failure of over-management. Both Smith and Donald made the mistakes.

  • Roger.A. on December 21, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    SA rips apart a batting line up and people jump up "best bowling line up in the world"...perhaps it was bad shot selection and bad batting. a batting line up stands against SA and people go "oh! what bad bowing (the same which had 4 best seamers)", no one credits the batting.

    Here I am sure it was the case of great skills, both mental and defensive, shown by India. There were hundred's of wicket taking deliveries bowled. Just brilliant from Pujara and Kohli. Once they were gone, the pitch seemed a different one.

  • Roger.A. on December 21, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    @Cpt_Meanster: I din't call them that. It was a sarcastic take on those who call them that. three_tamil has understood my meaning. My intentions were to hit out on those who instead of appreciating Indian batters theorize as to how Morkel's absence have aided India. If Steyn had gotten himself injured, they would have said he would have ripped through the Indian line up in not time!

  • on December 21, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    Truth is that India's performance has stunned everyone. South Africa looks tired. Their hastily arranged ODI series against Pakistan may seem like a bad idea after all. Secondly the one sided ODI series against India lead Proteas to take Indians easy and get over confident. Steyn historically has never intimidated Indian batsmen like he has prevailed over batsmen from other countries. Indian victory by a margin well over 200 runs seems imminent.

  • on December 21, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    To say Tahir was out of form is doing him a huge favour. He was simply too afraid not about bowling form. He does not have a big heart. He needs counselling more than practice

  • tanstell87 on December 21, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    Kolkata 2010....with India trailing 0-1 in 2 match series and desperate to win the test...Dhoni lost services of Zaheer Khan after only 6 overs in 2nd innings...with only a day left to pick remaining 8 South African wickets to win the test & draw the series & retain their number 1 test ranking, India had only 3 bowlers - Harbhajan,Ishant & Amit Mishra...they won the test with 8 overs to spare...

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on December 21, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    Maybe it's time to step back and view the situation. South Africa have lost the services of a bowler - they now have three frontliners. India has the same. South Africa has world number 1 and 2 operational. India probably has number 15 and 30. South Africa and India both have one specialist spinner and a few part-time options in that department. South Africa are a batsman short - but on home turf and against a team who is nothing but a bully on subcontinental roads. All this could have been said yesterday, but it would not have been fair. Now that there is performance to speak of - God's sake, wake up!

  • on December 21, 2013, 8:38 GMT

    Imran Tahir bowled very badly.He was bowling mostly full tosses,any batsman can gain confidence while playing such kind of bowling.SA seamers too bowled very badly.

  • on December 21, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    For God sake, give the due credit to kohli and pujara...you are making it sound like it was all a chance and the batsment are no good at all.

  • Sorcerer on December 21, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    Tahir is a mediocre bowler to say the least. Pakistan in last Series made him look world class though. The way he celebrates a wicket shows the reaction of a man who is utterly desperate and has surprised even himself.

    The next time he plays Pak, he'll be taken to the cleaners.

  • on December 21, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    Steyn looked like a street bowler here!!!

    Got it now!! he only can bowl only few overs, when he played out, he is useless.

    He looks very tired and has no clue in his face.. Love watching him this way and always want to see him like he looked today.

    Remember one thing ..... Over confidence and over reaction leads to a dissater. SA you are no more the NO#1 from this match.

    I can see on thier faces. They are much worried about the future rather than this match. AUSSIE will get you soon .. GOOD LUCK

  • on December 21, 2013, 7:28 GMT

    To analyse the day correctly, Morkel's absence meant that India didnt have to play the rising delivery and incoming delivery from SA that much, this helped them in refining their judgement and handling Steyn and Philander easily. Kallis could have tried a surprise strategy like bouncers from around the wicket etc or Duminy could have bowled outside the offstump with an off side field. Smith did a big nothing and India waited and then started caning the Saffers. Cannot undestand how Tahir can have such a bad day, he was doling out full tosses in his 10th over !! Never saw him use one or two overs just to settle his line and length, kept wanting to try different balls too early. India will play out the first 20 overs for 60 runs and then attack again, even if this fails SA are looking at 400 minimum. If they can chase 400 they are a great team on a wicket that is by no means easy, India may have made it look easy but Vern and Steyn were bowling wicket taking balls at the end of the day.

  • jonesy2 on December 21, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    feel sorry for tahir there is no way he should be playing test cricket its just plain irresponsible from SA

  • Beertjie on December 21, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    Spot on @Abhimanyu Mazumdar on (December 20, 2013, 19:23 GMT). You've nailed it perfectly, @heathrf1974 on (December 20, 2013, 22:50 GMT) about SA team has been tested for a while through the Indian batsman leaving good balls outside off stump." Credit to the fine Indian batting strategy.Since Hugh Tayfield's retirement half a century ago, South Africa has dismally failed to find a good spinner. It was natural to pick Imran given his domestic record, but he simply will not cut it at test level. Simon Harmer needs to play on the basis of his current and past performances. The same applies to Kyle Abbott. I know they have a squad picked, but if they lose this test as most now expect, desperate remedies will be required. The best team for Kingsmead may be: Smith, Elgar, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, Duminy, du Plessis, Philander, Abbott, Harmer, Steyn. Things have come too easily to SA at home. To see the dangers of complacency, just look at England's performance in the current Ashes!

  • sramesh_74 on December 21, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    I fail to understand how Tahir made it to the SA international lineup. He would struggle to make it to the starting 11 of any top domestic side in India.

  • Nero28 on December 21, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Dhoni should learn from this test to play 4pacer and 1spinner, total of 5 in away test . Despite of morkel injury SA have a quality allrounder in Kallis. But what would happen if one of india's 3 seamer heart again. It will be Ok in a two match series like this. But if it happen in Aus? India would not be able to take more than 2 wicket in the match. And the series will begin to run away from them as they have not another option there and no good benchstrength for the next match.

  • on December 21, 2013, 6:49 GMT

    @Jaycee-hit the nail on the head :)

  • jimbond on December 21, 2013, 6:48 GMT

    ABD's over is not symptomatic of anything. That was among Smith's (few) creative ideas. For those talking about Dhoni supporting his bowlers, he also throws away his gloves and bowls occasionally. No harm in that either. Smith's main problem was with his overall tactics. How did he think that a leg spinner who struggled against other sides would do well against India(who are generally good against the leg spin variety)? Or maybe he was overconfident that the three SA quicks would demolish the Indian batting and that this would allow for a confidence booster for Tahir. All said and done, these two days will test the character of SA.

  • India2014 on December 21, 2013, 6:35 GMT

    Watch out for Bailey and Clarke. Australia have two terrific batsmen. As well as for Mitchell Johnson.

  • shubh003 on December 21, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    I thought SA is no. 1 Test Team and they fail to bowl with 3 frontline seamers.. India bowled out SA with 3 seamers only. So South Africa should have also bowled with Steyn, Philander and Kallis if they are fit enough.

  • Naresh28 on December 21, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    How BELITTLED did TAHIR feel. Your wicketkeeper comes on to bowl. Dhoni always supports his bowlers even in bad times.

  • venkatesh018 on December 21, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    It isn't the form of Tahir which is an issue. It his selection in the playing XI which has cost S Africa dearly. Any kind of spinner, Peterson or Tahir are bound to be lambs to the Slaughter against these Indian batters. The bowling line up they had in the 3 one dayers was the perfect model for S Africa to finish off India.Even before the Morkel injury, the pacers were up against it facing a technically perfect Pujara and Kohli. The injury just accentuated the agony. Playing 4 specialist seamers plus Kallis was a no-brainer on this track. Smith and the coach are a victim of their own arrogance. Hope they get it right at Kingsmead but by then they will have the chance of only squaring the series, not winning it.

  • Fan1969 on December 21, 2013, 6:08 GMT

    One of the best days for Indian test cricket ever.

    I am imagining myself in India when India gets out for 244 after the opposition scores 280 and then they score 284 for 2. I would be hopping mad, frustrated and cannot believe what I saw. This is what happened when KP, Cook batted wonderfully at Mumbai and Panesar along with Swann got India out twice.

    India with an ageing Zak and an erratic Ishant, young inexper

    I hope SA do not escape with a draw as this Indian team deserves a win.

    If these youngsters can put No 1 team in home conditions on backfoot in first AWAY test then NZ, England and Aus better watch out.

  • three_tamil on December 21, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    @Roger...yes indeed you are correct , it is the same lame excuse only. When Steyn is taking wickets he is best bowler. If every one is finding difficult to take wicket, then injured bowler(Morne) is the only best bowler, without him rest of the bowlers are nothing. that's the reason India are manage to score runs. They philander and anticitics of india can not accept the reality or they don't have heart to accept India are playing well compared to their counterparts...oh they are trying to avoid "C-tag".

  • on December 21, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    I'm a huge cricket fan and I loved watching ABD bowling and Amla keeping wickets. Idk if it was such a bad decision..

  • xylo on December 21, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    Could you stop the annoying video from auto-playing?

    I thought Faf was mostly a leg-spinner allrounder, no?

  • cjk1984 on December 21, 2013, 5:44 GMT

    Its been a terrific guts shown by the men in Blue... Loosing Morne is really a bad for the saffs.... But remember India lost Zak in the first test against England when he was starting to grind the poms... That time it was told India rely too much on Zak.. Nevertheless morne's loss is a loss and Saffs need to think excluding him for the rem 2 days... Now India's strategy must be get through the 1st session and see of the new ball with some occassional boundries not loosing too many wickets... Then show the missed oppurtunity in ODI's and shift the gears of a T20 scoring qucikly.. Think if Ind's lead of arnd 350 with Kholi & Dhoni aft lunch.... Both will ponder any attack with such a situation.... Dont forget Watto's innings at Perth in similar situation ... India have a some monstrous hitters like watto.....

  • JayCee on December 21, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    LOL. SA had 13 players when the matched started. Now down to 9?

  • humdrum on December 21, 2013, 5:25 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx:All of us (except SA fans ) would wish for you to always watch Steyn bowl. But seriously, he has looked off colour for the most part in this match. Am sure the Aussies are watching carefully,they're in next aren't they ?

  • on December 21, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    the match hasnt finished yet

  • on December 21, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    Its not Tahir's form . Its that Sub continent batsmen plays spin really well for them Tahir is just one ordinary bowler. Remember guys Tahir never got a chance in Pakistani team. Pakistan is filled with bowlers like Tahir. So its not his form .

  • Alexk400 on December 21, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    SA failed to back up their talk. They really do not have real fast bowler. I mean one threatening to break bones. Picking Tahir over fast bowler and not picking quinton over faf is plain stupid selection for me.

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on December 21, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    While it cannot be pleasant losing a frontline bowler midway through a match, the think tank of a No 1 team is expected to have back up planning. Humdrum has a valid point - Morkel had 100 overs in the first innings to work his magic. Johnson hasn't required that many in the Ashes. Ye gentlemen of South Africa, the whole Australian team and staff have no other agenda on hand these days, except to follow this match and prepare for the upcoming series. A cub team - again well said humdrum - was perhaps not supposed to stretch the home side. Food for thought.

  • Cpt.Meanster on December 21, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    @Roger A: Have you been even watching the same game as the rest of us ? Whom are you calling 'flat track thugs". Oh wait a min... you mean the same 'flat track thugs' who have batted SA out of this game on a tricky pitch ? Who so wonderfully negated SA's much vaunted pace attack. Whose bowlers out bowled and out foxed SA's best by cleaning them up for 240 odd ? Hmm, India deserve a lot more credit than that. I guess Indian batsmen need to play on the MOON cause it seems playing well anywhere outside of India isn't enough for some people. Credit must be given where it's due.

  • on December 21, 2013, 4:37 GMT

    Expect the unexpected....Dale, Phil and the gang getting clueless on their own soil...indians are really doing well....the young gun kohli, pujara are playing with maturity.....first test after Tendulkar's farewell...but result again favouring india...smith may be wanting indians to fly back home....ab bowling was again very unexpected... maybe today smith amla and the rest so called 'batsman' will bowl today and expect to break the partnership///all the best to India um, SA :)

  • ramli on December 21, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    Well ... I thought SA had an all-rounder (world class!!) as back-up to 4 bowlers ... just because one of them slipped does not cripple the bowling attack itself ... others did not rise to the level needed on this occasion ... that is all ... SA is paying for an innocuous bowling display made so by diligent batting by India ... SA has to accept the fact and try and salvage the game, if possible

  • Roger.A. on December 21, 2013, 4:12 GMT

    Getting injured like that is your fault. Its like dropping a catch. You've to blame yourself. Oh...and Ishant has been better than Steyn-gone-Stale.

  • Roger.A. on December 21, 2013, 4:08 GMT

    @Mervo: Is this the lame excuse SA is giving for being in a bad position against flat track thugs? How come the great Steyn and Philander(who is expected to take a wicket every ball) have failed? Now Morkel is the best bowler in the world is he? Or perhaps if de Kock had played he would have scored a double ton first innings? Pathetic! No appreciation for neither your players nor the opposition's.

  • on December 21, 2013, 3:57 GMT

    The best part was Pujara being the aggressor in the partnership with Kohl and Virat was as solid in his game.But the credit needs to be given to Indian bowlers, who were bowling stump line and the SA bowlers were using outside off stump and wait for mistakes. Ishant is basically a good bowler who is just born on the wrong side of the globe. But it was a welcome return to Zaks. Ashwin might prove handful in the 2nd innings.

  • on December 21, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    The analysis is too one sided to be considered that. Agreed Smith was definitely hamstrung by the absence of SA's premier bowler. But Graeme Smith was totally unimaginative as acknowledge by Daryll Cullinan in the same post match show that the author is referring to, albeit only the convenient parts of it.

  • tntn on December 21, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    It is repeatedly seen over the years that South Africa are just set in their minds to execute one way only. If their plan A is countered they do not have a plan B or C. Lets not blame form of Tahir or injury of Morkel. It can happen to India too as it happened to Zaheer in 2011 England tour. Tahir essentially is not a test class bowler and is rushed up in his actions. It could be seen that he was almost delivering on many occasions even before the batsman was ready. In the previous tours SA tried to bounce India out. When they countered the short pitched stuff like Dravid and laxman did, they got them outside off. This time its not working out. Atleast this far. Let us also understand that they are dealing with a new indian team which dares any situation, does not fear, will go to any extent to attack and as we have seen here in SA any extent to leave too. It is necessary to give more credit to the way Indians have played than discredit SA and find reasons.

  • tntn on December 21, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    It is repeatedly seen over the years that South Africa are just set in their minds to execute one way only. If their plan A is countered they do not have a plan B or C. Lets not blame form of Tahir or injury of Morkel. It can happen to India too as it happened to Zaheer in 2011 England tour. Tahir essentially is not a test class bowler and is rushed up in his actions. It could be seen that he was almost delivering on many occasions even before the batsman was ready. In the previous tours SA tried to bounce India out. When they countered the short pitched stuff like Dravid and laxman did, they got them outside off. This time its not working out. Atleast this far. Let us also understand that they are dealing with a new indian team which dares any situation, does not fear, will go to any extent to attack and as we have seen here in SA any extent to leave too. It is necessary to give more credit to the way Indians have played than discredit SA and find reasons.

  • gibbs.175 on December 21, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    A huge defeat ,South africa cricket team has to face today or tomorrow . Dale made a statement about indian batsmen ,now he has to play for his reputation/ country's .I miss Dean Elgar .he is a good all rounder( wicket taker bowler ).... He can play as a opener with Smith ......good luck, let's see good cricket !

  • SnowSnake on December 21, 2013, 2:42 GMT

    The difference between playing Steyn in ODI and tests is that you actually have to play Steyn's outswingers in ODI. In tests, you can leave them alone. However, Ishant is just the opposite. He actually swings the ball in and you must play Ishant both in tests. Add bounce to the pitch, Ishant becomes a good bowler.

  • on December 21, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    Morne Morkel's injury notwithstanding, South Africa's vaunted pace attack has been made to look very ordinary.

    They can't reverse swing the ball and they really do look clueless once you see off the first 15 overs without the loss of too many wickets. The secret is out. Expect every visiting team to copy this strategy now.

  • SHER-A-PANJAB on December 21, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    So poor show by whole Southafrican cricket here in j'berg. they could not bat well and bowl either . Indian cricket performance is slapping them by scorecard ...Dale and party clueless......SA gonna loose it , no already lost ....

  • humdrum on December 21, 2013, 2:15 GMT

    What the writer ignores is the fact that even with Morkel's presence in the first dig,India kept them in the field for 103 overs and the SA bowlers are not used to it.Combine that with 77 overs in the 2nd dig and thats a huge 180 overs with more to come.Ergo, it wont be easy to get tired minds and bodies to deliver. And how the mighty have fallen in as much as all talk of trampling over the Indians is now replaced with seeking a draw.This is what test cricket is all about,keeping your opponents on the field for long periods and sapping their energy and morale,which the Indians have superbly demonstrated.And,oh by the way,they are a 'cub' team going into the first test without any match practice whatsoever.

  • Dax75 on December 21, 2013, 2:14 GMT

    Tahir didn't bowl the best, but neither did the other bowlers. Also why should blame be heaped on Tahir when South Africas batsmen didnt give him anything to bowl at? Really is a batsmans game isn't it. Hope Tahir comes back strong.

  • Mervo on December 21, 2013, 2:07 GMT

    When you lose one of your front line bowlers any side struggles to even manage a draw.

  • jimbond on December 21, 2013, 1:45 GMT

    Despite being the no. 1 team, SA team needs some minor adjustments. Smith as a batsman is very persevering, but I have never been his fan as a captain. Retaining the opener- smith and making ABD captain may not be a bad ploy. Alviro Petersen is not good enough at test level. Given the recent positive experiences with De Kock although in ODIs, it is worth a gamble to try him in tests. Faf needs to bowl a few overs- else may find it difficult to retain his place as a pure batsman. Tahir, well is a failed experiment. Tsosobe can cover up for Morkel in the next two tests, but it may make sense to replace Tahir with someone who can do a bit of a holding job- like Mclaren or some young spinner. DeKock can take over the WK headache from ABD, but there has to be planning on long term replacement for Kallis. If some of these changes are not made now, SA could be struggling in transition in an year or so.

  • on December 21, 2013, 1:41 GMT

    I loved to watch the fearless batting by a Indian batsman in SA pitch. Remember they are playing against world best bowlers. India will take lead in this match.

  • johnathonjosephs on December 21, 2013, 1:35 GMT

    After Morkel got injured, the game was out of SA's hand. Steyn and Philander can't bowl back to back forever, and Tahir is in horrible form.... Not only is he in bad form, but he's bowling to the best players of spin in the world... Almost impossible for only 2 fast bowlers to bowl on a pitch like this

  • Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby on December 21, 2013, 1:26 GMT

    For all those Aussie and Saffer fans quick to criticise a Jimmy Anderson, take note of Steyn's impotent performance. The best is clearly behind this guy.

  • dalboy12 on December 21, 2013, 1:15 GMT

    Sounds (no coverage here in NZ) like India is playing really well. Not sure why SA keep on with Tahir, he seems very hit and miss, and he misses he really misses badly. But hey Mitchell Johnson has shown the benefit of sticky with players. Really hope Morkel injury not too serious --- as I'm really looking forward to the Aussie series in Feb and want SA at full strength.

  • xtrafalgarx on December 21, 2013, 1:13 GMT

    I have never seen Steyn bowl well every time i have watched him. His record is outstanding but every test match i have seen him in, he never bowls well.

  • JayPadia on December 20, 2013, 23:49 GMT

    SA cannot simple hide under the excuse of running out of options. They began the series with claims of the best test match attack in extremely favorable HOME conditions against a very inexperienced batting line-up. Selection errors in Tahir and injury to Morkel in the 2nd innings are situations the best attack should be capable of putting behind and making a mark.

  • on December 20, 2013, 23:36 GMT

    everybody say SA not bowled well..does that mean pujara &Co never batter well..grow up guys..indian batsmen were terrific

  • on December 20, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    Imran Tahir seems to be a confidence bowler. He has got close to 700 first class wickets at a very good strike rate which is not a joke and for him to struggle to even land the ball must be a serious dent in confidence. Strangely he was doing brilliantly in all formats against Pakistan very recently and within a span of 18 overs he has looked out of place. I guess it is very much to do with the way he is being managed. No doubt Tahir bowled a lot of rubbish, but I guess if he is managed in a better manner and provided the confidence he needs, he will deliver the goods. Probably SA need to trust his attacking instincts on all type of wickets and give him a good in out field until he settles into a rhythm before attacking fully. He was taken for a lot of boundaries through mid on and still there was no long on. If SA can get their spin management right, they will benefit a lot even when their fast bowlers are not doing well.

  • righthandbat on December 20, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    India has played phenomenally well - exactly what test cricket is all about. Work hard to maintain good lines/length when bowling, work hard to get in and put away the bad balls, but keep disciplined and not get complacent. Every team in the world should look at how they have played in this match (looking at you England in particular!).

  • heathrf1974 on December 20, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    I don't think SA team has been tested for a while at home because of the Indian batsman are leaving good balls outside off stump. SA do not have a plan B. This is the weakness of some fine teams when things don't go their way, it is usually rare and they don't know how to combat it. Superb cricket from India.

  • Naresh28 on December 20, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    SA seemed to be bent on only looking at ways of getting Kohli. As soon as he came on we saw Steyn and Phillander steam in. They forgot that there was both Vijay and Pujara at the other end in the different partnerships. Pujara actually eased it up for Kohli. SA have also lost the team spirit by blaming Tahir. Dhoni supports his bowlers in bad times - Smith made Tahir appear the weak link.

  • Cyril_Knight on December 20, 2013, 22:23 GMT

    Is anyone who was there going to comment? Please give us an insight into Smith's approach on the field; I saw him captain at Surrey last summer and he was an inspiration. On TV today he seemed distant, and became resigned so quickly.

    Please tell me that Smith has not lost the plot, the pro commentators are suggesting this, albeit politely. Graeme Smith is at his best when he is always talking to his bowlers, nagging the fielders to keep the ball in good condition, politely sledging batters. I couldn't see any evidence of this today. Surely his injuries have not taken away one of his greatest attributes; his confidence.

  • Zak- on December 20, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    If I see one more person suggesting substitutions in cricket... it's just not cricket!

  • niddib on December 20, 2013, 21:00 GMT

    The obvious reason for Smith to bring Devililers on, was simply to break the concentration of the batsmen. It was the perfect time for such a big distraction (involving taking the pads/gloves off and Hashim Amla donning them) and as it was the last over before tea. NICE TRY MR. SMITH! Just wondering, how come the so called experts never mentioned it being the reason.

  • kc69 on December 20, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    By the way if Tahir is a naturally attacking bowler then why was he not a part of SA ODI team that was attacking India from all ends?

  • Robeli on December 20, 2013, 19:58 GMT

    Haha rick333! You nailed it!!!

  • Anubhav-the-Experience on December 20, 2013, 19:40 GMT

    Its a war of attrition...I do not want to be smug but on first day when India adopted the strategy of playing overs out, I understood that Dhoni and Fletcher's mind know that 3 bowlers will not be able to bowl for more than two days without suffering any body problems....This is why spinners are there...to provide rest...Tsobte was a better option against Indians but then again if India had played him well it was curtains for Saffas...good strategy and dedication from India...conditions still suits Saffas its just that Indians are more talented and passionate. I expect Steyn to lift his game in 2nd match in Morne's absence and people may expect a cheap 5 for.

  • on December 20, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    One thing nobody has touched upon..The biggest differnce is how the two teams have bowled with the old kookabura..India got it to reverse against which saf batsmen were clueless..They didn't even try to reverse the ball. Glaring deficiency in strategy and shows how overconfident a team can get if they are not tested properly. A glaring lack of planning by the south africans. Might cost them the series.

  • The_Rohit on December 20, 2013, 19:16 GMT

    Just proves that no team can win test matches without a quality bowler. For all the SA might, their source of morale is Steyn. Reminds me of the Indian test team that was #1. They lost Zaheer in the first test in England in 2011 and never recovered.

  • rick333 on December 20, 2013, 19:16 GMT

    How quickly the tables have turned, it think it was only a day before the author had written about 11 member indian team having to take on 13 member SA team where Kallis and De Villers effectively doubled as all rounders. Now it is reduced to 9 member SA team?!?!?!?

  • anvesh4444 on December 20, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    was this all just because of mistakes done by SA's bowlers, not a little credit to India batsmen for batting well?

  • sreehk on December 20, 2013, 19:03 GMT

    Robin Jackman put it well when he said he can imagine a bowler getting injured for SA but what if Ishant was injured for India. India would have to deal with only two seamers and one spinner who could be hardly bowled on this pitch. Game over. It would have been shameful to watch cricket. Something needs to be done for injury replacements otherwise what do we pay for and what is the fun of watching sport?

  • on December 20, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    I guess the poor bowling of tahir doesnt get quoted as an excuse to justify SA and demean India s superb batting ... its evident that they were crippled by morkel s injury but steyn and philander have destroyed entire line ups by themselves this year! so please give due credit to pujara and virat who played with a lot of patience and skill.... still I believe that SA have the capability to play out a draw but that would take a herculean effort with either of amla or de colliers scoring a big hundred.... India WILL lose wickets in a heap tomorrow so it was good that they capitalized on today s conditions.... hope they can stretch the lead to 400+ so that we can rule out a successful chase !

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  • on December 20, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    I guess the poor bowling of tahir doesnt get quoted as an excuse to justify SA and demean India s superb batting ... its evident that they were crippled by morkel s injury but steyn and philander have destroyed entire line ups by themselves this year! so please give due credit to pujara and virat who played with a lot of patience and skill.... still I believe that SA have the capability to play out a draw but that would take a herculean effort with either of amla or de colliers scoring a big hundred.... India WILL lose wickets in a heap tomorrow so it was good that they capitalized on today s conditions.... hope they can stretch the lead to 400+ so that we can rule out a successful chase !

  • sreehk on December 20, 2013, 19:03 GMT

    Robin Jackman put it well when he said he can imagine a bowler getting injured for SA but what if Ishant was injured for India. India would have to deal with only two seamers and one spinner who could be hardly bowled on this pitch. Game over. It would have been shameful to watch cricket. Something needs to be done for injury replacements otherwise what do we pay for and what is the fun of watching sport?

  • anvesh4444 on December 20, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    was this all just because of mistakes done by SA's bowlers, not a little credit to India batsmen for batting well?

  • rick333 on December 20, 2013, 19:16 GMT

    How quickly the tables have turned, it think it was only a day before the author had written about 11 member indian team having to take on 13 member SA team where Kallis and De Villers effectively doubled as all rounders. Now it is reduced to 9 member SA team?!?!?!?

  • The_Rohit on December 20, 2013, 19:16 GMT

    Just proves that no team can win test matches without a quality bowler. For all the SA might, their source of morale is Steyn. Reminds me of the Indian test team that was #1. They lost Zaheer in the first test in England in 2011 and never recovered.

  • on December 20, 2013, 19:23 GMT

    One thing nobody has touched upon..The biggest differnce is how the two teams have bowled with the old kookabura..India got it to reverse against which saf batsmen were clueless..They didn't even try to reverse the ball. Glaring deficiency in strategy and shows how overconfident a team can get if they are not tested properly. A glaring lack of planning by the south africans. Might cost them the series.

  • Anubhav-the-Experience on December 20, 2013, 19:40 GMT

    Its a war of attrition...I do not want to be smug but on first day when India adopted the strategy of playing overs out, I understood that Dhoni and Fletcher's mind know that 3 bowlers will not be able to bowl for more than two days without suffering any body problems....This is why spinners are there...to provide rest...Tsobte was a better option against Indians but then again if India had played him well it was curtains for Saffas...good strategy and dedication from India...conditions still suits Saffas its just that Indians are more talented and passionate. I expect Steyn to lift his game in 2nd match in Morne's absence and people may expect a cheap 5 for.

  • Robeli on December 20, 2013, 19:58 GMT

    Haha rick333! You nailed it!!!

  • kc69 on December 20, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    By the way if Tahir is a naturally attacking bowler then why was he not a part of SA ODI team that was attacking India from all ends?

  • niddib on December 20, 2013, 21:00 GMT

    The obvious reason for Smith to bring Devililers on, was simply to break the concentration of the batsmen. It was the perfect time for such a big distraction (involving taking the pads/gloves off and Hashim Amla donning them) and as it was the last over before tea. NICE TRY MR. SMITH! Just wondering, how come the so called experts never mentioned it being the reason.