South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day December 22, 2013

Whose win should it have been anyway?


'Shocked SA didn't push for a win' - Kohli

This great Test ended with both teams blaming the other for not going for the win, trying to claim a psychological advantage.

Until Faf du Plessis' run-out, with 16 to get off 20, it was anybody's guess which team was more desperate to win and which was going for safety, but both the sides waited for the other to make the play in the last three overs.

India began to bowl bouncers to Dale Steyn, who seemed content to not play them. They then sent all nine fielders to the boundary in the penultimate over, faced by Vernon Philander who was striking the ball well. Zaheer Khan bowled full and wide, but Philander kept turning down the single. The last two balls were harmless bouncers, which didn't seem to faze Philander.

In the last over too, Steyn didn't show much intent to go for the win until there were only three balls left. The crowd present for the rollercoaster game booed both the teams in the end.

Man-of-the-Match Virat Kohli fired the first salvo when he came for the press conference. "Everyone was pretty shocked honestly," Kohli said of South Africa's approach. "We didn't think that they would stop going for the score because with eight runs an over and with Philander striking the ball pretty well - and he can bat, we have seen that in the past - I don't know what happened. We had our plans, and that was going for the wickets but to see them not going for that score was pretty surprising for all of us."

In response, Graeme Smith pointed out to the fields set during the penultimate over. "They (India) certainly didn't have four slips, short leg and a gully," Smith said. "I can throw the thing back at you if you want. I think certainly they didn't play like a team that had been wanting to win the game. In the end probably a fair result for both the teams. I know there is a lot of emotion around, public sentiment, naturally so, but as a team I think we are in a strong position going into Durban."

Smith said MS Dhoni had reason to be more disappointed after how well they had done over the first four days. "I'd be surprised if MS didn't feel that his bowlers should have won the game for them," Smith said. "I would certainly as a captain - 450-460 on the board, 132 [136] overs - you have got to believe that on this surface you have the bowling attack that will do the job. Credit to our guys and the way we played. One thirty-two overs with a short turnaround to the next Test, there are probably a few things that they are thinking about.

"Certainly they were ahead of the game. I think they will be very disappointed they didn't win the game. There was certainly a huge amount in that wicket to work with to win the Test. Knowing the mental drain it is to play from behind from day two… Day two was an extremely difficult day to bat. Once we were behind, it was always going to be difficult to make a play. Credit to the guys and the ability that we have. The mental strength and the ability to find a way to get something out of this Test match, we have done extremely well with that."

Kohli disagreed with Smith's assessment of India's intent. "Most part of that last session, we were looking to attack," Kohli said. "Not so when Faf and AB [de Villiers] were playing. The moment AB got out, all we looked to do was get wickets and get the result our way. We were never aiming for a draw. Or thinking that we needed to draw this game."

Kohli said that South Africa's refusal to go for the win had renewed India's confidence. "If you ask me if we claim an emotional victory, we were on top on the first four days of the Test match," Kohli said. "The fifth day they played brilliantly, but in the end when they had the chance to actually go for the total, they didn't. That was surprising for us. That revived or rejuvenated our confidence once again. It doesn't feel nice when there is a big partnership. You are low and down, and the bowlers cannot put in so much of effort continuously. But they gave us an opening in the end again so I think we take a lot of confidence from that."

There was respect, though, for how difficult it was to beat South Africa. "It was not easy when Faf and AB were batting," Kohli said. "It was a fifth day's wicket, and Ashwin was getting a bit of bounce and a bit of turn when they were batting but I think for the fast bowlers it was difficult. I think they bowled pretty well throughout this Test match. They kept attacking the stumps. If you see, there were so many edges falling to the right or left of the fielder, so many inside-edges missing the stumps.

"I think we bowled well, but we have to accept that those two guys batted brilliantly. They showed a lot of character, and that is why they are the No. 1 side in the world. It is not easy to defeat them in a Test match, and you have to fight it out, and it was totally the brilliance of their batting."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mayan on December 25, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    Rahul Radhakrishnan . . . the likes of you are going to get one hell of a surprise in Durban! Bank on it! I don't say this, at all, because I believe the Indian test cricketers are, somehow, weaker/poorer players than the Proteas, but mainly because of Graham Smith's insistence that South Africa MUST win this test. Like I have said before . . . He is the best thing that has ever happened to South African test cricket. Z. Kahn can bowl him out, all day long, and probably will do so, again, even cheaply, but neither he nor any other international fast bowler will ever bowl out G. Smith's sheer grit and determination for South Africa to dominate international test cricket for a good long time to come. This M. Clarke will also find out if he has not done so, long ago, already.

  • Tahir on December 25, 2013, 4:13 GMT

    It is hard to say who deserved to win as in 1st innings india were 5/264 but ended on 280 all out so SA came back strongly for for indian batting lineup got them out cheaply. Then SA were sitting pretty at 130 when Amla got out surprisingly and india bowling was set for mauling but ZAK/Shami got them back in the game with significant lead. India extended the lead but lost last 9 wickets for 100 runs so SA again restricted while India had not batted to their fill an still wanted to extend the lead. Then the historical 4th innings where india could not contain SA, conceded 300+ runs on final day wearing pitch and eased to draw with wide and bouncy deliveries bowled at tailenders. lol. In this scenario, SA deserved to win as they resticted indian strength of batting in both innings and almost chased world's largest 4th innings total to win a test match. Also, they scored 3rd highest total of a 4th innings. In SA 1st innings Indian bowlers benifited by conditions and were tamed in 2nd inns

  • Jay on December 24, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    BLAST FROM THE PAST: 2011... 3rd test vs windies... India facing a target of some 75 runs in 15 overs with 8 wickets in hand with dravid n laxman playing... and the skipper Dhoni plays for a draw! That is not shocking to kohli, but tail enders playing for a draw is a big shock 2 him. Kohli gave a nice try at hiding the '9 players on the boundary' tactic of his skipper!

  • Dhairy on December 24, 2013, 11:15 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.

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    First of all Congrats to SA than Mr. Virat kohli expression surprise on SA not trying chasing world record target, I explain this expression in 2011 india chasing target 243 but short 1 run against weak attack WI but now MR VT expressed his surprise on SA attitude. MR VT you give Thank to god who save you and india

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    First of all congratulation to SA now days Mr. Virat kohli expressed surprise on SA attitude of not trying winning this test match but Mr. VT Look inner heart in 2011 when India chasing 243 target in 4th innings against poor bowling line up WI. They were not trying 243 and ended their innings 242. Mr. VT trying these things first of all their own than advised other.

  • Naresh on December 24, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    @zcfoutkast - I somehow also have an inkling that something was amiss with this game. I just did not see Steyn and Philander communicating. In fact I think there is a rift in the SA team. The game was there for SA's taking - the result makes a lot of people wonder. Thus I concur with some of your thoughts !!

  • R on December 24, 2013, 6:47 GMT

    Contrary to popular opinion, I believe Indian bowlers will put up an even better show in Durban. In fact, with the lack of firepower, Indian bowlers depend too much on help from the pitch. That is why Dhoni commented, "Greener the better", when he was told that a green top awaited India before the first test. In fact, on the last tour to SA, India actually won at Durban, while SA have lost their last 4 Tests at that venue.

  • Manesh on December 24, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    @wapuser. lol. India donot have any top10 bowlers dude. Only SA have 3 bowlers in top 5 still they were not able to restrict India for a less than 350 score. Some people think India need to bowl out side leg side and let them to score. LOL. You need to work hard to score runs and win matches. SA had fear of losing the match after the fall of 7th wicket and hence they never touched anything outside off or never tried to play bouncers. That is the fact. If they were going for runs, wicket will fell and as you know, after one more wicket, there is no one there who can hold the bat.

  • David on December 24, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Bit disappointment in Knoli's remarks - he is the one that made a bad decision wrt to his shot in an attempt to get 100 in the 2nd innings why did he not make a better decision in this regard.

    Furthermore everyone is hammering SA for not going for the win - why did India not continue to attack in their attempt to get the last wickets - putting 8 or 9 fielders on the boundary is acceptable as is the draw for India - but SA gets lambasted for deciding to accept a draw.... It was India that was in control of the match the whole time - and the Supersport commentators at the end of day 4 also claimed SA had no chance of getting the runs... So why does Kholi only criticise SA's and not his own teams tactics...

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