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

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