SA v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day

Smith defends safety-first tactics

South Africa's captain supports Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn's decision to play it safe, in the face of criticism from the crowd and former players

Firdose Moonda in Johannesburg

December 22, 2013

Comments: 94 | Text size: A | A
'India didn't show enough desire to win' - Smith

The Wanderers crowd are an unforgiving lot. Even though they did not fill the stadium once - with work commitments, holiday season and threatening weather keeping them away - they made their voices heard when Dale Steyn sent Vernon Philander back in the third-last over of the day and when Philander returned the favour in the next one.

Loud boos echoed around the ground for every refused run. South Africa had 16 to get off the last three overs and had shut shop. The fans were asking why.


Zaheer Khan celebrates as Faf du Plessis is run out, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013
South Africa kept going for the target till Faf du Plessis' dismissal with three overs remaining © AFP
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Graeme Smith explained the decision was made by the two batsmen at the crease and was not a team order. They considered who South Africa had left to bat and made their decision based on that.

"Ultimately the guys out in the middle, what they thought was in the best interest of the team," Smith explained. "Morne [Morkel] struggling to stand really. And Immy [Imran Tahir] - he would probably say himself that you are not too sure what you are going to get from Immy. I think we as a team have to support the decision Dale and Vernon made in the middle."

Smith said, at that stage, no messages went out to Philander or Steyn. "You can't send out messages between overs. That is not allowed," he said, but confirmed Steyn had gone out with some instructions. "The message was to set it up for the last over. Then there were a couple of maidens bowled, which made it difficult. I think ultimately we needed to give Vernon an opportunity to win us the game. I think he was the guy that probably would have done that. It never happened," Smith said.

"Ultimately the strength of this team is that there are good decision makers. Each guy is mature. They've made great decisions over a period of time which have won cricket games for South Africa. I think that's how we have got to No. 1 - by trusting each other and trusting each others' decision making. Dale and Vernon have 100% support from me."

When asked if being eight runs away from history left Smith gutted, he held his line. "Guys, if you want me to say that I disagree with what Dale and Vernon did, I am not going to say that," he said. "I think I have answered that question enough today. I think I have covered that."

South Africa's decision not to chase victory came under scrutiny from more than just the few thousand people in the stadium. Herschelle Gibbs, who tweeted that it would be a "bigger victory than the 438 game" during the last hour thinking South Africa had won, corrected himself when he realised they were still batting. "I'd rather go down going for a win than a draw," he posed, following it up with "As in life, no point going down wondering."

Johan Botha also thought South Africa were in with a chance, although his approach was more measured. He tweeted. "Game on!! Watching from Hobart. Get it down to around 50 only four or five down, then a big chance." South Africa needed 56 to win when AB de Villiers chopped Ishant Sharma on to leave them five down.

By that stage, du Plessis confirmed he was looking at survival first and if he was there in the last five overs, he would have gone for it. He was there until there were three overs left and that was when South Africa shut shop. Smith explained it as being partly due to so much being at stake in the first Test, because the series was so short. "In a two-Test series, with one match to go, there is an opportunity to go and win the series in Durban. We have to believe in the decision that Dale and Vernon made," he said.

It was also, he said, a fitting response to a game in which South Africa had been playing catch-up for most part and didn't think they would win. "Even at lunch today I don't think we believed we will get as close as we did. We were just playing. That was our chat this morning. To make sure we build a partnership. We knew, to save the game we would have to have a session without losing wickets. We got that after lunch. We played it beautifully," he said.

"From day two we have been behind the game. I don't think many people gave us a chance to be in this position. As a team, we showed the mental strength and the ability to handle pressure and the ability to understand what needs to be done.

"We saw two of the greatest innings played in recent history. I think we need to appreciate the effort. I hope people through the emotion of wanting more always can see and respect the efforts that the team has certainly put in. We fought hard, and were able to show enough skill to get something out of this game. The fact that everyone is talking about Test cricket, the fact that everyone is talking about this game, is wonderful for the game of cricket. It will certainly go down as one of the great games."

With that in mind and the knowledge that South Africa's fighting draw in Adelaide eventually led to them winning the next Test in Perth and Smith alluded to them doing the same here. Durban is somewhat of a hoodoo venue of them - they have lost their last four Tests at Kingsmead - so to go there with a chance of still winning, rather than drawing the series, was important.

One person who recognised that was Iain O'Brien, the former New Zealand fast bowler, who believed South Africa took the right approach. "For me, SA did the right thing," he tweeted. "They were amazing to NOT lose that Test. Special draw for SA. Demoralising one for India. Epic cricket."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by DhairyBoghani on (December 24, 2013, 11:22 GMT)

Two reason of bad 4th Innings bowling. 1))Bad spin bowling as duminy-tahir both gone for 2-2 wickets each & aswin hadn't take least one. We can believe he hadn't bowled bad but true thing is that he couldn't find a wicket against not so well spin players. # Change him with Jadeja. Better batsman & better bowler according to condition. 2)) Bad use of new ball in both Innings. we produced only 1 wicket between early overs of all 3 new ball.Bad Zaheer who Leaked runs at 4.25/over in 2nd inning & taken only 1 wicket because of bad dicition. #change him with Bhuvi. He always use new ball batter than all others. Try him in atleast 1 away test. He just put out by 1 bad performene in 1st ODI.

Posted by harshthakor on (December 24, 2013, 10:08 GMT)

To me we were deprived of a classic finish and probably a sensational win by the Proteas playing for a draw in the end.It was like an epic Holywood thriller with an incredible twist to the tale but ending in an anti-climax.Du Plessis just failed to hit the final nail in the coffin and the finish ideally proves what nerves are all bout in sport.In the circumstances I would have backed a team like Australia at it's best to complete the run -chase.

Posted by harshthakor on (December 24, 2013, 10:03 GMT)

South Africa should have gone for a win.If they had accomplished it it would have been a victory for test cricket.After being on the verge of defeat the Proteas turned the tables by coming to the doorstep of the greatest 4th innings winning run -chase ever in a test match.They were coasting home when Du Plessis was batting with A.B.Devilliers.

Calling the shutters to me was against against the spirit of the game and was an anti-climax to a test match which had the twists and turns of a Hollywood thriller.Inspite of India's heroics for 4 days I wish South Africa had won after their incredible recovery on the final day.

Posted by cricketcarl on (December 24, 2013, 1:47 GMT)

2 tests, is this really a series? SAF may well go on to win this 'series' but its one dimensional thinking that has cost them past glory despite their skill

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 20:19 GMT)

Very unconvincing explanation by Smith. CSA will never ever win T20 and ODI, those formats require gutsy decisions and they lack guts.

Posted by asim900 on (December 23, 2013, 19:37 GMT)

Surprising to see Indians commenting that SA choked. It is India who is at loss after this draw. Until Tea India were the favorites for over 4 and half days and 9 sessions. Only in last hour SA looked like having some outside chance of winning. Smith hit bulls eye that any team in the world should win test match 460 on board and 135 overs up in sleeve except India with over rated spinner in shape of Ashwin. Remember all seven wickets in SA second innings were as a result of misfortune simply and nothing brilliance from bowlers

Posted by sgbhatcar on (December 23, 2013, 16:36 GMT)

South Africans tried to psyche India out of the Test with talk, before the Test and did not succeed on the field when India took the 1st innings lead.. I think they should have won it quite easily in the end...They most certainly choked... To now come out and say India should have won and try psychological warfare prior to the 2nd Test, makes no sense.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 16:30 GMT)

Marvellous cricket and a credit to both teams. High quality skills, technique, courage, wit, determination, strategy, captaincy, mental toughness, stamina - you name it, it had it... More of all the above in one Test match than 3 or 400 ODI's added together will ever have...

Posted by BnH1985Fan on (December 23, 2013, 15:56 GMT)

India were missing a bowler -- seeing that Rohit did not do much in this game (dropped a sitter in the slips), Jadeja could have contributed more with his bowling and in your face attitude. He could have made India a winner in the first test.

Posted by R.A.B on (December 23, 2013, 14:46 GMT)

atleast philander looked he had some guts to make the winning runs. but steyn ...ha..ha...ha... "no" he says to philander again & again. big let down for fans .

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 14:09 GMT)

while Steyn could lift up a glorious 6 of the last ball, he could have done it earlier, he and Phillander who is in fine form must have gone for the win. Even if SA lost wickets in that process it would have been always respected that they have failed after putting up a fight but they didn't. Because win always matters. India did their best.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 14:00 GMT)

The fact everyone knows, 50 odd runs with 5 wickets and 14 overs remaining most of the test playing teams would have certainly got it. SA certainly choked and cant accept that.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 14:00 GMT)

funny comments. not a single indian even considered that you could lose this test and we took you all the way to the end. after all that hard work saving a test we were always behind, why would we risk it going for a record? isn't the point to win the series? and now we have a very good chance of doing that even though we performed badly for 4 days out of 5 in the first of two tests. well done boys, you showed guts and india you need to try harder, we dont just roll over and give test victories

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 13:54 GMT)

Philander is almost as good a batsman as Dhoni is. Marginally better than Ashwin. Certainly better than both, in South African conditions. If Steyn bullied him (because of his status and seniority) to shut shop, ...that is... really bad!

If Dhoni was in Philander's position, he would have taken the risk and gone for it, protecting the weaker tail enders from the final desperate attacks. Even Ashwin in that position, would have gone for it.

Fortune favours the brave. Of course, occasionally, the brave also falls into unfathomable pits. That is what risk taking is all about.

Posted by zzby on (December 23, 2013, 13:39 GMT)

Correct decision Made by SAF aftre losing AB,Duminy and FAF, by this approach they cant go as bravest team in the world but who cares . Its winning which matters...

Posted by R.A.B on (December 23, 2013, 13:14 GMT)

steyn saying no for a run. he looked funny.

Posted by Ali_Chaudhary on (December 23, 2013, 12:42 GMT)

hatts of to Faf. It is always like this. In tough conditions only AB, Faf or JP stand. Kallis, Amla always see the match from balconey. They make 100 after 100 once the conditions are easy. Opponents are lesser etc.

Posted by Johnny_129 on (December 23, 2013, 12:34 GMT)

I could not imagine Steve Waugh's Australia having settled for a draw in the final overs - You could imagine Gilly smashing a few into the stands and settling the issue, quick-smart! SA is no.1 at present when Test teams are weak all around but they cannot compare themselves to all time great Australian and West Indian teams - not even close, despite the fight back to save this Test at home against Indian bowling.

Posted by ansram on (December 23, 2013, 12:14 GMT)

South Africa has not won major tournaments precisely for this reason. They aren't mentally strong, no matter what skill and talent they have.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (December 23, 2013, 12:00 GMT)

No:1 ranked team, playing @ Home, playing against few young batsmen who donot have experience in SA conditions, got no:1, no:2 and no:3 fast bowlers, opposition has only one good bowler (who too returned to the team after 1 year gap)- STILL not able to win it!!!. Some one blamed that India got most of favorable conditions. Does no:1 team like SA too want favorable conditions to win a test match against a team who barely won test matches abroad? Someone blamed no:2 bowler was hurt. Does a team depends on only 1 bowler? Does SA need no:1 + no:2 as a unit to get wickets for both of them? Serious questions to be asked.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (December 23, 2013, 11:46 GMT)

@ StaalBurgher. India won the toss but elected to bat on a pitch and condition which suits for bowling. You mentioned Kallis What about Shami's appeal denied against de Villiers on 73.3. Also, pitch and conditions suited batting on day 3 and 4. Indian bowlers are far below in class compared to SA. But still they got up to 7th wicket. Bowling bouncers is a strategy to get the batsmen out. When SA did it on 1st inngs, it was a good tactics! If SA where that much confident, why Philander was silent after few boundaries. It is international cricket dude, do not expect the opposition to give you easy runs! You are no:1 team, so you expect to be the winner here and that didn't happened. Thats a shame for your team. India must be happy with the efforts as they are ranked below your team. Wait and see about Kingsmead. Based on this performance, no easy win, I am sure.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 11:12 GMT)

I watched the last session with enthusiasm, as a neutral it was promising to be a fascinating session, possibly a historic one. But I was shocked with what I saw in the last 5 overs. If I wasn't more cynical, I would say that someone was throwing the match....

The great Aussie teams would NEVER have approached the match like that, to be in such a position, with the India team down and beaten - and not be taking singles (i think they turned down two - which would have left them leaving an extra six runs in the last over)! SA still - despite being undoubtedly the strongest team in the world, a LONG way to go before becoming a 'great' team!

I am staggered. What has this game become????

And let's get over this 'greatest draw' rubbish, it wasn't the greatest draw, there were batters waiting to come in, a greater draw was England Aussie Cardiff 2009. There are many more greater draws!!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 11:10 GMT)

@Gibran Akmal: Had it been Australia or England, the match would have been over by lunch with India having won comfortably. Don't forget how South Africa managed to get into this position despite being outplayed for the first 4 days. #JustSaying

Posted by mahjut on (December 23, 2013, 10:12 GMT)

lets be honest...re dan bretig's quote about what the aussies will know about the saffers when they head there in Feb: they will know that Adelaide was not a one off, that setting 450 in the final innings is no guarantee of anything (if the aussies do get in a position where declaring is a possibility this innings will be a loud little devil on Clarke's shoulder), they'll know that the saffers never consider themselves beaten nor are they daunted by impossible targets, they'll know that a saffer will step up if othrrs fail and they will know that "there's still a fear of losing" (not sure how much that last nugget will help - it hasnt helped in the last three series between them nor in the last 6 years for any team (all eho knew that nugget) - least important information on my list as it's the oldest bit of info ... most of the other info is new. pretty ordinary attempt at disintegration dan

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 9:30 GMT)

Winning a test they could've lost, or losing a test they could've drawn.

Your take South Africa, it looks like this is precisely where successive SA teams have faltered, and the problem has been exposed. A lack of fire in the belly.

Nothing should take away from their wonderful effort on a fifth day pitch, it is a tremendous effort no matter which opposition, which bowlers. The last day of a test match has always been difficult historically.

But consider this: What would've an Australia or even an England, I dare say, would've done, if this was an Ashes match?

I rest my case.

Posted by mahjut on (December 23, 2013, 9:01 GMT)

@andrew dixon ... yes, australia and england would have gone for it. pity for them that that is not what it takes to be #1 (didn't England used to be #1 - everyone loses it "sooner or later" but luckily for SA fans their team will lose the #1 spot a lot later than the English fellas team did). To be #1 you have to know when to strike but far more importantly when to soak up the blows (ala Ali in the rumbling jungle) - SA scored over 300 runs on a 5th day wicket but still had to go at 4.5 an over in the final 15 overs. Faf still took a risky single right at the end to "set up the final over" ... but after he left (Philander was NOT set) the condition of the game demanded a change and as many things Smith does, he'll almost certainly be proved right again 8D - good on him

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

@mzm149: The decision to settle for a draw was taken after du Plessis was out!! As per Smith, given that Morkel was injured and not in a position to bat, Imran Tahir could not be relied upon, and a maiden over was bowled after du plesis was out, the decision was taken when there were 3 overs left, to settle for a draw.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 8:53 GMT)

RSA, pretty much did the right thing. YES, we had the chance to win the game and given a different situation, we would have won. I, like many other supporters fully back SA with the decision that was made. If we had more wickets in the end, then we certainly would have have gone for it. Also, there might have been a few SA supporters upset, but the booing would definitely have come from all the indian supporters in the ground, who were hoping that Vern and Steyn slogged madly at the end and lost their wickets. At the end, it was a tough decision. India were outstanding to achieve what they did, but remember, they are ranked second in the standings. Why lose ground to them. Yes, we all want to be mavericks, but sometimes a level head will yield better results in the future. SA came out of this test with no impact to the standings. For them to have drawn the match, from the position that they were in, is a MAGNIFICENT achievement in itself...I, for one, SALUTE the SA camp.

Posted by Mayan820 on (December 23, 2013, 8:45 GMT)

123cric . . . You clearly know nothing of test cricket. To say that the Proteas choked just supports your complete ignorance of this format of the game. If they went for the win with only 2 wickets left, the Proteas could easily have lost this game. Why am I so certain that you would then have said . . . they choked again not being able to get 16 runs in 3 overs. The Indian bowlers and fielders were just waiting for Philander, Steyn and Tahir to go for it. They bowled the right balls to Steyn and their fielders were in place. Then was also the surprise of slipping a well directed yorker into the mix. They did the right thing going for the draw. Steyn is acutely aware that he is about 8 or 9 wickets behind on his average bowling strike rate and he knows that those 8 wickets can easily come in Durban. If the Proteas win there, they win the series. If they had lost this game, there would have been no chance of a series win for South Africa in Durban.

Posted by TCooper on (December 23, 2013, 8:44 GMT)

India should have won this match. Bowlers were not able to find reverse swing the same way they did in the first innings. Could have been a great victory. Looking forward to the Durban contest.

Posted by moBlue on (December 23, 2013, 8:23 GMT)

to all the IND haters out there... johannesburg was the saffers' best chance of winning a test in this series! durban? not so much... not after SA scored 131 (batting second, mind you!) and 215 (batting last) the last time around...

yeah. read that again. 131 all out... in their own backyard batting second with the SA commentators snickering because IND had just been dismissed for 205. it was fun for me to watch the SA commentators go all quiet when IND bowlers ran roughshod over the saffers efficiently!

...and zaheer and ishant took 8 (out of the 20) wickets then. IND's batting is not any weaker this time around because the only IND batter who clicked in durban the last time around was VVS!

...and SA miss morkel!

besides, IND then were tentative because the saffers had whooped them massively by an inning in the first test. these boys here - otoh - know they are on the way to becoming world beaters after such a phenomenal display in the first test and their confidence is sky-high!

Posted by quittthewhinging on (December 23, 2013, 8:23 GMT)

I'm sorry but the majority of Indian fans on this blog are reverting to the tired old "choking" thing & criticism of SA to deflect their disappointment at not winning the game after huge expectations of doing so at the start of Day 5. The fact is that with SA having a batting tailender (Philander) & a slogging tailender (Steyn) at the wicket, with two real tailenders (one crippled) to come, it was Dhoni who did not go for the win. All his fielders were on the boundary. Why didn't HE attack? He wasn't forced to bowl Ashwin after all. I still say India are not capable of taking 20 wickets against SA. We will see in Durban.

Posted by Just_Sam on (December 23, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

In my opinion, India could not bundle out SA in the fourth innings because of stark failure of Ashwin. Just one wicket could have done the trick. He wasted 36 overs. If fact his ordinary display proves, India was also playing with three mainline bowlers like SA (after Morkel injury). It is proven beyond doubt that he really struggles outside India. Now it will be wise on part of Team Management to drop him from the second test and play another pacer.

Posted by banglafan on (December 23, 2013, 8:06 GMT)

@Staalburgher, thats the spirit.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 8:04 GMT)

Are people on this forum too blind to read? Go for the win with an injured Morkel and Tahir who can't bat? Looks like everyone is thinking with their heart and not with their head. Would they have felt the same if Steyn got bowled going for the big hit of the last ball?

Lol at the Aussies saying that they'd have gone for the win. Tell me when was the last time Aus even came _close_ to chasing a big fourth innings target?

The Tahir selection was a major blunder SA has made. Imagine how this game could have gone if Ryan McLaren was playing or even Robin Peterson. Both of them could have held a bat and couldn't have done much worse than Tahir bowling-wise.

Posted by milepost on (December 23, 2013, 7:42 GMT)

A very disappointing result. India showed they have nothing with the ball and SA showed little desire to win. I can't see how you can defend the position and I agree with Gibb's comments. On the brink of the highest run chase in history and they close shop? Australia would never finish a match like this, they play to win. SA will get well beaten if they play like this against Australia in February. Very ordinary stuff from SA.

Posted by StaalBurgher on (December 23, 2013, 7:21 GMT)

India won the toss, Morkel was injured for half the game and Kallis got a shocker and India still did not manage to win. I am disappointed SA didn't make a historic win but with only 1 bunny like Tahir and Morkel who can barely stand to come in we couldn't risk it. India had no catchers in place and everyone on the boundary. They were bowling the ball over Steyn's head. The draw happened when du Plessis ran himself out, you cannot blame the bowlers. We are the stronger team so the series will be won in Kingsmead. Good decisions were made at the end.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

Good to see parity resumed at cricinfo comments center! People coming out all guns blazing against india! All that hatred and no avenue to froth it out !! Personally - AB and FAF played innings of lifetime to save south african skins! When two batsmen are playing like that I dont think any bowling attack could have done anything. For all of steyn's bluster he managed his worst bowling performance "EVER". That ought to count for something. In durban, SA will be without Morne and there would eb some doubts in steyn's mind, (Even though he is the best there is right now IMO)

Posted by banglafan on (December 23, 2013, 7:10 GMT)

I think SA did the right thing. No need for heroics in test cricket, its a mind game requiring mid-term strategies rather than off-the-cuff decisions. If SA would have lost the test, which was an equal probability considering the bowling generated in the last three overs, alongwith the batting to come, everybody would have been on Smith's back for losing a test he could have easily drawn !

Posted by gavinfrank on (December 23, 2013, 7:08 GMT)

I think both teams deserve tremendous credit for putting on a great show.Both teams will be gutted at not winning. India had a great chance but having reached within 8 runs , it was SA's match to lose or draw and they chose to draw.Is that how the no 1 test nation should have approached it is anybody's guess.However it was a great match. I think India would be morally on a high having taken this match to the end , while many pundits suggested before the match that SA would win inside 3 days.Far from it! I would like to question Ashwins role in this team. He is just wasting a spot which could have been taken by another fast bowler. Do we need to really have a below par spinner (outside india) just for the sake of variation ??? Dhoni wake up , please include umesh in the next match. We need someone who can bowl consistently in the 140's.

Posted by Just_Sam on (December 23, 2013, 6:54 GMT)

Once again so many guns are aimed at Indian bowling for not been able to dismiss SA in the second innings. What AB & Faf did yesterday has been done so many times in the past by so many teams (recently by WI with DB scoring 200+). In 1976, India turned tables and won the match against the mighty WI by scoring 406 in the 4th innings (at that time a world record). But nobody, at that time, bashed the WI bowling. Recently SA did the same thing against the Oz but still nobody was critical of the Oz bowling. So let us not crib about Indian bowling & batting and just appreciate good effort by both teams more so by Indian team because they were suppose to loose this natch by an innings.

Posted by dalboy12 on (December 23, 2013, 6:54 GMT)

This match just shows why I'm so looking forward to the Feb series of SA v Aussie. India played a great game --- and will be disappointed that they didn't win. But Aussie like SA and probably unlike India have another arrow in their weapons that they will use. If that was Aussie playing for the win --- their would've have been all sorts of sledging and gamesmanship thrown at SA, but I reckon SA have shown in the past that unlike England they can handle it and even give a bit back. But this sounds like it was a great test --- should bring great encouragement to the Indian team who played really well, when everyone had written them of.

Posted by chin-music on (December 23, 2013, 6:20 GMT)

Don't think either of the teams can claim any moral victories here !! For Ind - there are clear question about whether their pop gun attack is really capable of taking 20 wickets against a good batting side which will not give up ?? They certainly tried their best- but equally certainly, their best is nowhere near good enough. For SA - they certainly chickened out towards the end ( quite similar to Dhoni similarly chickening out in the West Inides couple of years back with 80-odd needed in last 15 overs) --- so while they fought well , in the end they showed themselves to be just as safety-first namby pambies as their Indian opponents.

Posted by mzm149 on (December 23, 2013, 6:16 GMT)

I don't get it if South Africa had to settle for the draw, why did du Plessis take a risky single. He is more capable of blocking than Steyn and Philander.

Imagine if it was an ODI. Wouldn't they have gone for the win even with tailenders and 16 runs to get off last 3 overs. The thing which baffles most is that Philander had already scored 25 runs. He was not new to the crease.

Posted by Brenton1 on (December 23, 2013, 6:13 GMT)

Simply summarized, India could not bowl out a team in 4 and a bit sessions and in fact at one stage looked like they were going to lose a game they dominated for 80 % of the time.

Posted by Just_Sam on (December 23, 2013, 6:09 GMT)

If one may recall that after beating India 2-0 in the ODI, any statement from any of the SA player was full of arrogance and disdain towards Indian bowling and batting. Steyn's comment that Indian batsmen are "scared of SA pacers" has grossly come unstuck. SA has escaped in this match but next will be very testing for them because Indian Tiger has tasted blood.

Posted by PrasPunter on (December 23, 2013, 5:54 GMT)

i think it was india's match to win after day 3 and the fact is that they haven't. Chases like these are freakish and it would go bad more often than not. Since day 3, SA were playing only with 9 ( Morkel injured and Tahir - less said the better ) and good that they escaped with a draw. May be the indians should have scored quicker and given the bowlers more time to get those 8 wickets ?? !!!

On a wicket like this, SA did well to survive. So indians should be more disappointed than SA.

Posted by visn on (December 23, 2013, 5:54 GMT)

Steyn, Tahir and Ashwin have match figures that show how easy it was for the batsmen from day 3. In the SA chase : I don't know how Peterson got bowled. Two runouts and a freak dissmissal, and two miss hits onto the the stumps, not to mention an inside edge on the wrongful LBW. Hardly testing bowling is it?

Giving this context, playing for a draw at home when you have victory in sight does not cut it as a good result for SA. At least 2 wickets in hand! Shame shame shame!

Posted by KunzMan on (December 23, 2013, 5:54 GMT)

I don't think they choked. What we need to consider is A) This is Proteas team who don't have the killer instinct. B) This is only a two match series, had it been a 5 test series or even a three match series, I guess they might have gone for it. Risk of losing the first match in a two match series where it means at best you can just draw the series is far too great IMHO. C) Weather issues in Durban.

I think deep down they will still feel they probably should have gone for it, but the scale of disappointment will triplefold if they end up losing in Durban. Either a SA victory there or another draw (with weather being an issue also) will justify this approach. It is just that we sometimes confuse a number team with being invincible marauders the Aussies were a decade back, and so end up calling them chokers. I don't, for this match. Well played Pujara, Kohli, and especially Faf and AB.

Posted by Just_Sam on (December 23, 2013, 5:42 GMT)

Simply summarized, SA could not win against India on a Tailor Made home pitch which grossly suited their style of bowling and batting.

Posted by Savvy-Cricket-Analyst on (December 23, 2013, 5:36 GMT)

India had the game almost in it's pocket, as it had dominated the game in the first four days. On the last day, unfortunately the Indian bowling was found inadequate to take 10 South African wickets. Indian decision to go into the match with just three fast bowlers has been proved to be wrong. Ashwin too has proved once again that he is totally ineffective outside India. On the same South African wickets, Kumble was India's most successful bowler. India needs to replace Ashwin with either Yadav or Bhuvneshwar in the next match. Rohit Sharma can bowl Ashwin's wicketless 6 overs from first innings & 36 wicketless overs in the second innings.

Posted by srikanths on (December 23, 2013, 5:19 GMT)

I don't find fault with S not going for the kill with Steyn and Philander only. You never know Tahir would have lasted or not. Why should SA preent the Indians with chance after having come this far to draw the match. But truth be told, Australians would have definitely gone for the kill. There is no question about that. That is how they play the game.I recall in 2006, when Greg Chappell ( his tenure as India coach might have been miserable otherwise) was India coach, against Eng in 2006 , the Indians kept a 4 th Innings chace till quite late in to many wickets . Pulled the shutters only when it became beyond reach.The Australian team and Australians in general are more adventurous and attacking

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 4:39 GMT)

Chokers? India had this game by the scruff of the neck and didn't know how to finish it. If either team choked it was the Indians, ZaltzmannsHair. Only one team was bowled out twice in this Test. The Indians have a lot to think about going into Kingsmead.

Posted by Maveroth on (December 23, 2013, 4:32 GMT)

Even though, I'm satisfied with the result, but in response to Philanderer's approach toward survival, I'd say - they still had one spare player down the order who could do the same for the team. 16 off the last 3 overs is conveniently doable. Philanderer should have gone for it, but settling for a draw is utterly justified as well.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 4:21 GMT)

@AndyZaltsmannsHair It is not choking if you were expected to win anymore, and statistically you were more likely to loose based on history. To come from where they were to where they ended is not choking. It showed an intent for looking at the bigger picture. It is easy to critisize from the side lines while India's fielders were all on the boundaries in case SA goes for glory. They were begging us to go for glory and were ready to seduce us. Loosing would have been worse in the bigger context of a series, not a one of game.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (December 23, 2013, 4:14 GMT)

@AndyZaltsmannsHair, Truer words have never been spoken. To you sir I stand and applaud. Bravo.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 3:54 GMT)

Just say "we choked", Graeme!!!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 3:43 GMT)

It's true that they saved this test which was an uphill task in the morning. But India started this series as underdogs and SA was expected to white wash them 2-0. The talk was that Indian batsmen are flat track bullies. They disproved it. Then SA claimed that they were frightened after ODIs.They disproved it. After that the visitors dominated 7 out of 9 sessions of the test. Did any one expected it? After tea on the final day SA were firm favorites. If they couldn't win from there, who is to blame? If the No.1 test team could not score 16 runs of last 3 overs even though the opposition sets a defensive field, who is to blame? At least in the last over they could have gone for the kill. They din't. For India, there are only positives. There bowling, batting and fielding clicked. Rahane epitomized with 2 telling direct hits. Huge credit should be given to ABD and FDP for their epic performance. From that point onwards only one team could win and they missed it. That's all.

Posted by 123cric on (December 23, 2013, 3:28 GMT)

South Africa choked again.The match was their for the taking and Faf and AB would have been most disappointed that SA went for the safety first approach.History was there for the making for South Africans. mentally they have to change their approach and have to go for the kill.

Posted by ramli on (December 23, 2013, 3:26 GMT)

It is that phenomenal choking tag that clouded SA thinking ... SA only justified it one more time. The boos from the audience is ample reflection of that. India emerged as moral winners in the end

Posted by balajireddy on (December 23, 2013, 3:22 GMT)

Massive effort from SA to draw, especially the way Faf and AB batted. However, India got out of jail simply as SA were too scared they would be labeled as chokers. The way India bowled on the last day and the way Faf & AB batted, a SA win would have been the just result. India bowled negatively in the final 3 overs to draw the test. they were not confident they could dismiss Steyn, an injured Morkel & Tahir. If they cannot do that, I wonder how they could be confident of bowling SA out. Maybe they were just worried about edges going for 4. A spinner not taking wickets on day 5 is a shame, regardless of the state of the pitch. It showed when Dhoni did not bring Ashwin back in the last few overs. At the end of the day, as a spectator I felt robbed of my time. All the time put into watching this match and no team wanted to work or risk to take a positive result. A commentator mentioned that neither team deserved to lose. Based on the last 3 overs, I think neither team deserved to win!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 3:21 GMT)

actually this draw servers India right. It is a wake up call for the BCCI, selectors, and anyone interested in Indian cricket. They do not have the right balance to the team. 7 pure batsmen and 4 pure bowlers including a spinner-allrounder who is ineffective. Kohli, Vijay, Rohit, etc are just bowling-end changers. They are not equal to shewag, yuvraj, ganguly, or sachin bowling. Those guys were capable of getting a surprise breakthorugh. Zaheer is fragile. Ishant can suddenly lose confidence. India should have won the match but if they had, that would have given wrong type of confidence. All is well but not perfect. A country that had kapil,binny, mohinder, kirti azad, madan lal, prabakar, shastri, solkar, ghavri, etc is not able to groom a few allrounders? let us go in with the right balnce and preparation. The results will show.

Posted by sarangsrk on (December 23, 2013, 3:17 GMT)

Well said, AndyZaltzmannsHair. SA have done this time and again. Doing well at the group stages or initial part of the series only to shudder in the face of victory. They didn't do it in that 438 game only because that fighter man Boucher was there at the crease. Here, Smith can keep saying that they were behind in the game and all that but then, where they were in last 5 overs, it was their game not to win it. Faf took unnecessary run (like he did in WC'11 QF) and Vernon/Steyn didn't take singles in 2 overs. If they did, they would have left SA only 10-11 to get in last over and who knows, could have won the game? As Gibbs rightly said " no point wondering what could have been". You don't get such chances every now and then.

Posted by Gr8Mindzzzz on (December 23, 2013, 3:05 GMT)

4 runs per over needed and Indian Bowlers never bowled safe outside off or leg. They kept on giving short/Good length balls and SA could have chased the target. It was looking ok when Faf was playing. Then Philander and steyn didnt play it well. There were 3 wickets more. Injured Morkel was also padded up. What was wrong with them? last 15 runs in 16 balls was good enough. They even denied taking singles. That was even more frustrating. Smith defending the team was just a way to console his own players but inside even he knows what would have been right.

Posted by mensan on (December 23, 2013, 2:35 GMT)

As I said in my comments at the end of day 4, there are only 2 results possible - either SA win or a draw. Exactly that happened. Indian bowlers could claim only 3 wickets inwhole day, one was a run out and other was an umpiring gift.

I think SA choked. When they required 55 runs in 11 overs with 4 wickets in hand, they should have attacked. S single 10-run over would have deflated India there.

Posted by starlite on (December 23, 2013, 2:22 GMT)

Settling for a draw with victory clearly in sight - how terrible! No wonder Herschelle Gibbs is gutted. As a South African, I'm gutted too. At least go down fighting - that's what Hersch and and Mark Boucher did during that famous "438" showdown. They responded to Australia's 436 with a do-or-die mentality, and won! Why couldn't Vernon Philander have taken a page out of Gibb's book! Graeme Smith's cowardly statements show how unsuited to the role of captain he is! Yes, he's made busloads of hundreds, but this was his chance to MAKE HISTORY!!! In a way, he and MS Dhoni appear to be cut from the same quilt: The last time these 2 sides met in a Test on these shores, India were on the verge of winning the 3rd Test in Cape Town - and India's first series win in SA - when MS inexplicably decided to shut up shop and go for a drawn series. Perhaps Biff was returning the compliment yesterday! Hmmm...perhaps.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 1:56 GMT)

Well, if South Africans went for kill and won the test match, they could have chance to win the test series 2-0 and reassert themselves as No 1 Test team in the world without any doubt... No, they didn't do it - tried to play it safe and basically, reasserted once more that they cannot just win big moments... I know its bit harsh but if you want to be at No 1, you cannot just always try to be safe. Yes, Indian bowling unit might be really tired but the Indians were almost done and dusted - next test match could may well have been a walk over for SA... now the Indians may well win the next match and SA will be on the losing side.

Posted by Gevelsis on (December 23, 2013, 1:54 GMT)

What a cowardly, negative decison by Smith. Would anyone have blamed him had they gone for it and lost? When you have the chance to make history you have to take it. Dale Steyn made it clear what thought of it by hitting the final ball for six. What was Smith thinking? The loss would have been a glorious one. Shameful.

Posted by Inspector_Clouseau on (December 23, 2013, 1:45 GMT)

Settling for a draw assuming that you are going to win at Kingsmead may come to bite you back in the bum.

Posted by Raju_Iyer on (December 23, 2013, 1:40 GMT)

I can't figure out how Ian O'Brien thinks this would be demoralizing for India. A team which could easily have lost the match in spite of their heroics with the bat, would have been demoralized had they lost. If anything India will feel proud that their intensity never slackened (brilliant run out in the dying stages); they have seen the tiger in the eye and it chose not to attack!I don't think India's bowlers will feel demoralized, if the great Dale Steyn struggled to get even one wicket in India's second innings, it is a credit to India that they brought down 7! This is not a typical Indian wicket which would crumble on the last day and aid the spinners, this was probably more like the Nagpur pitch

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 1:35 GMT)

This is exactly why SA don't deserve to be #1 and will lose it sooner rather then later. 16 to win in 2 overs, 3 wickets in hand, a good and set batsman on strike. What do they do, block a maiden. Surely Philander had to go for it, surely he had to trust his teammates could block out th1 11 balls or less to get a draw if he got out. Australia would have, England would have, in fact I think every other team in the world would have. Pathetic.

Posted by jahbert58 on (December 23, 2013, 1:16 GMT)

G Smith always been a choker! If it wasn't for a great team of players probably be strip of captain long time ago. Most captain with a player like F du Plessis, AB de Villiers that show guts of steel not once but twice put his team in an improbable position of defeat to the brink of victory and to settle for a draw is mind bogging to me. I guess Smith doesn't have any confident in Philander, Steyn & Morkel handling a couple of overs. India knowingly going into the final days play 90% were winning the first test instead SA played like #1 champion team and almost win the match but came up 7 runs short and gift wrap India an early christmas.... be careful what you asked for India now know they can compete with SA in their home ground. Thanks SA & India I can enjoy test cricket again hope i didn't speak too soon.. lol

Posted by Moppa on (December 23, 2013, 1:14 GMT)

I would say that South Africa made the wrong decision in being so cautious, except for the fact it is two match series (which in itself is ridiculous). If it was a three match series, I think they definitely should have gone for it. As it is, it makes a lot of sense that they will back themselves to take momentum from the draw and go for the kill in the second Test.

Posted by CustomKid on (December 23, 2013, 1:05 GMT)

@AndyZaltzmannsHair - I have to agree, that is a cop out by Smith - 'the decision was made out in the middle'. Give me a break, and that is the reason you'll always be regarded a very good team and not one of the all time greats.

They'd never gamble with a possible loss to gain a win and this is/was the perfect example today. I still can't believe they didn't push for a win, one of the all time great wins, maybe the greatest win ever, given they were behind pretty much the entire test.

I'm a neutral but was cheering for the Saffa's in this series. Given Smith's clear lack of ticker I'm now on the Indian band wagon. I hope they regroup and smash them in the next test. Unlikely but hey you can hope. I guess smith sees it as the battle is over but the war is yet to be won.

ANyway I'll be watching the 2nd test with interest. Keep up the great work IND & SAF

Posted by estwickg on (December 23, 2013, 0:46 GMT)

It is totally unfair that the teams ranked 1 and 2 are limited to a 2 test series. The ICC should change this where the top teams must play a 5 test series where 2 matches are played in one country and 3 in the other and vice verse.

The window for test match cricket now is too small for teams to be playing 5 test series almost back to back. Other countries also need to play an adequate amount of test cricket per year to improve their skills.

Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (December 23, 2013, 0:35 GMT)

with 3 wickets in hand chose not to go for the handful of runs. maybe they were trying to avoid the chokers tag in test too! had they gone for it and lost what would be the reaction then...we can only wonder now..

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 0:31 GMT)

Peterson should get a chance ahead of Tahir. I dont think Tahir will trouble the Indians much but Robin Peterson can bat as well as bowl good enough. Otherwise that would be a change SA should try and enforce.

Posted by mredz84 on (December 23, 2013, 0:25 GMT)

@AndyZaltzmannsHair the chokers tag is mostly regarding big limited overs tournaments. this win wouldnt have changed any of that, cos if anything that amazing draw at adelaide should have done it considering it was also an away series against a far superior bowling attack. i feel in tests SA has rarely ever choked like they do in multinational tournaments. it was disappointing that they didnt go for it at the end but i feel they will win at durban to take the series.

Posted by rocket123 on (December 23, 2013, 0:24 GMT)

Please. All the talk about chokers, really? SA did the right thing. Amazing fight back. Any bowling attack could have bowled SA out today. To chase 400 plus in the last innings is in itself a huge pressure cooker situation. India's confidence has been severely dented because it was the war for them to win and the opponent under the pump, defied them with a real fisted punch. Kohli and for that matter any one can say anyhting but the reality is "India u remain flat track bully". You have to do lot more out of India to gain the respect of being so called No.2 Test Team.

Posted by Paulk on (December 22, 2013, 23:52 GMT)

I had the same thought. Steve Waugh's team would have gone for a win in that position even if probability of losing was high. It is rare that these chances to create history come by and when they do you just have to go for it IMHO.

Posted by DonclydeBrown on (December 22, 2013, 23:46 GMT)

If South Africa continue like this they will be a good side but never great. I can't think of any other team in the world coming so close to a historic victory and then closing shop. Absolutely ridiculous. These guys play first not to loose and then try to see if they can win. The first thing should be go for the win and then settle for the draw. Just look at how Australia took away the last test from England in one session. South Africa would never have done that. They are really now officially the Chokers in world cricket. They rob the paying public of what they deserve. Smith's response is poor for a captain. That is also the reason why Kallis is not more highly rated. His centuries don't equate to winning test matches. Even though he is one of my favourite players, I hate that aspect of his game that does not take it away from the opposition. I won't be suprised if India wins the next test. None of the teams really deserved to lose, but to come so near and not go for it is a shame.

Posted by annys on (December 22, 2013, 23:25 GMT)

Don't think this SA team is a great test side , the West Indies under Lloyd, Australia under Steve Waugh and even England side a year back under Cook would have won today no doubt. Sorry to say but SA CHOKED again today

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 23:19 GMT)

this is why Sth Africa will never dominate world cricket...they have the most talent but lack the killer instinct. how could you not win needing 16 in 3 overs.. Smith has a good record as captain but must go down with Alistair Cook as one of the most unimaginative captains in history. Always safety first. Maybe it's time to give AB DeVilliers a go, they need a captain with flair that plays win at all costs cricket. Australia always had there measure in the 90's and 2000's as they were very predictable there was no X factor it was always safety first. I couldn't imagine a Stephen Fleming or Clarke not going for a victory.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 23:13 GMT)

As an Australian watching this test match to the end it became very apparent both teams were afraid of losing. Neither team had the courage to take a risk to try and win. This why these 2 teams are good teams but will never be great. Look at the past great Australian and West Indies teams, they were prepared to risk losing to try and win. The old saying is very true, "No guts no glory".

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 22, 2013, 22:38 GMT)

I'm surprised to see so much criticism of SA, I thought SA would lose by 200 runs chasing 458 on this pitch. Fantastic batting. If SA were really that 'conservative' they wouldn't have come close to getting 320 runs on the last day.

They gave it a full go until Faf was run out and they had two bowlers at the crease. Then India bowled an over of bouncers with men on the boundary - if Vern had swung at those and got it would probably have been a win for India, with only Tahir and injured Morkel to come.

Great test match, very tense to watch. Well done both teams. As for all the comments about how Australia 'would have won that', have to laugh as Aus have never come close to chasing a score like that in their entire history!

Posted by ex-Srilankan on (December 22, 2013, 22:33 GMT)

Andy, its not just Steve Waugh, but any of the Australian captains since then would have gone for the killing. Interestingly, there is plenty of criticism of India coming from many (I suspect) Australian fans which I find surprising. Yes, the Indian bowlers could have done better, but their batsman stood up on conditions that suited the South African bowlers. South Africa on the other hand owed it to their home fans to go for a win. That, to me is the biggest disappointment of the game. I hope test matches like this will force cricket boards to schedule 3 tests as a minimum for a series.

Posted by Saffacricket on (December 22, 2013, 22:07 GMT)

And @ AndyZaltzmannsHair, this is a non sequitar. His choker tag applied to ODI tournaments, not test series. Also, his team was one of the greats. This is SA team is very good, not a great. Any captain can look good with players such as he had. He was a poorer Captain than Taylor or Ponting IMO. Given the same situation, and the same players, for him to use, would he have done better? I doubt it.

Posted by Saffacricket on (December 22, 2013, 22:02 GMT)

A lot of rubbish spouted from both sides, but it was a great match, and one to remember. Kudos to both sides, India possible more so as theyt were underdogs. Day 1 SA's. On days 2, 3, and 4, and the very 1st part of 5, everyone thought it was India's to lose. Then Faf and AB gave us a fighting chance. When Faf lost his wicket, realistic prospect of winning, at ODI or T20 asking rates, with none of their fielding restrictions, was unrealistic without too high a chance of losing, It's a series, for heaven's sake. India did well to knock SA over in their 1st innings and maintain the hold until today. SA did well to fight back and secure the draw. If Dale and Vernon had gone for the win, and lost the match, the scalp hunters would have been bellowing. Ignore the posturing from Kohli and Smith, and enjoy what was a great game.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 21:58 GMT)

SA looked history in the face and then choked again. Yes it was a great effort to bat for a day and a half, no question. But to balk at history like they did was so typical, so sad. This was the chance to become immortals, to be almost unquestionable as the world's best side, and certainly the best SA side in 40 years, worthy challengers to the side of 1970 .Instead, they blinked. Chose middling mediocrity of the draw rather than glory that would have them talked of for cricketing eternity. And yes,Australians would have gone for it. What is it in the SA and English psyche that prefers not to grasp destiny and history with all hands when it is fleetingly there to be taken?This is a weakness that will return to haunt them again and again. They have dropped the chance to blow away their reputation for timidity and failure in the face of glory, again.Can't wait to hear the Aussie chirping in key moments in February.

Posted by NixNixon on (December 22, 2013, 21:49 GMT)

@andyzaltsmenshair , I hear what you say about aus going for the kill but I doubt that they would have been able to put themselves in such a situation in the first place, chasing that score. Be realistic and dont act like the aus couldhave and wouldhave won everything.

Posted by soaf on (December 22, 2013, 21:39 GMT)

proteas have all the talent in the world to become world beaters.they really have developed this defensive mindset due to that "chokers" tag.really disheartening to see choosing them the route of draw from the victory's highway.and that against this pathetic minnow-looking indian side which can never survive three days of a test against SAF.hope the boys will play upto their true potential in durban and will give a lesson of life to this cricketing minnow india who can only compete sides like zim and bang.bring abbot and mercahnt in the next test and make these indian batsmen hopping on the pitch because this is where these indian batsmen are good at.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 21:26 GMT)

Though I think they could have gone for the win, in the end a good result considering both teams played excellent cricket and none deserved to lose.

Posted by Lach-Ferragh on (December 22, 2013, 21:19 GMT)

I felt sick after that final ball. So close to making history from a seemingly impossible position. I'm a neutral when it comes to SA and India, but I couldn't believe what I was watching. You only get those types of chances once in a life time if that. No doubt the chokers tag will stick for decades to come and rightly so after that cop out. India will not let the Proteas forget this in a hurry. For me, this is what separates the great sides from the good. And for me, SA DESERVE to lose after this.

Posted by AndyZaltzmannsHair on (December 22, 2013, 19:44 GMT)

Somewhere in the world right now Steve Waugh has a smile on his face. He knows that a) his boys would have gone for kill with both bat and ball. And b) South Africa drain themselves of confidence with the finishing line approaching. It was he that created the chokers tag and today South Africa could have rid themselves of it once and for all. And CHOSE not to.

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