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

Draw shows how much the Test meant

While we're left wondering what might have been had either team pushed for a win in the final stages of a wonderful Test match, we'd do well to remember that it's difficult for players to take calls that could possibly undo five days of hard work

Sidharth Monga in Johannesburg

December 22, 2013

Comments: 92 | Text size: A | A

Faf du Plessis goes airborne, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013
This was a match where the possibility of the draw messed around with otherwise clear heads © Getty Images

"This. Is. Awesome."

Those who watch World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) know that chant well. You can hear it during the great, long matches when the wrestling and the play-acting come together perfectly. When a staggering wrestler pulls great technical manoeuvres out of nowhere. When the other clearly exhausted fighter finds a way to pull out of submission holds. Dragging inch by inch to the rope, escaping the hold and buying time. Then he makes a comeback. However, when he unleashes his finishing move, the other wrestler kicks out of it. It is all unbelievable. On the day, the two are great equals. Whatever one guy can throw, the other takes it before hitting back. It all builds up the "this is awesome" chant.

Now WWE loves to tease you. It can't let that feud end on one night. You can't have a clear winner on the night. It likes to build up to later matches so that the rivalry can go on for months. Often, there is contrived outside interference to make the heel (the bad guy) win and the face (the good guy) lose. There is no clear winner on the night, but both wrestlers take away moral victories. They come back to fight again the next week.

This Test. Was. Awesome. Except that it was real. There was a real 35-year-old bowling eight-over spells, throwing himself around to save singles. There was a real man under pressure to save his place in the side, braving pain between his thumb and index finger for 50 overs, facing the hard cricket ball and taking the bottom hand off every time it hit the bat hard. There was a bowler with a toothache trying to win it with the bat. There was a young man in his second Test directly hitting the stumps to try and turn the match around. A man struggling to stand on his feet was padded up to come out to bat, should it come to it. All of that for a draw. Unlike WWE, there was no outside interference.

When they are done claiming moral advantage, trying to turn the psychological screw into each other, both the teams will sit down and reflect on what a great Test this was. A match in which time, such a beautiful concept, became an entity with life of its own.

On the fourth morning, India tried to just bat out time so South Africa didn't have enough to force a win. It was almost a dead period, but it was giving India insurance before they took the game forward. Later during that day, they rushed through their overs because now the time was different. The same team, pushing to get as many overs in, had to slow down on the final afternoon because losing had become a possibility now.

This was a match where the possibility of the draw messed around with otherwise clear heads. This is what Test cricket does to you. It is not just about scoring runs or winning matches. Saving the match is an option. If South Africa didn't have that option, there is every chance they would have won it after the great partnership between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. If that option wasn't available, there is every chance South Africa would have perished going for the win, possibly playing injudicious shots.

There was something about having worked hard for four-and-half days that made the players give it their all. In the 82nd over, du Plessis' thumb jarred against the handle, leaving him in visible pain. For quite a few overs after that, he kept getting some attention during the over beaks. He took painkillers. He would have received more treatment during the tea break. When he started out, he couldn't even have known where he was headed.

Du Plessis came in ahead of a legend, Jacques Kallis, because the legend had to bowl too much in the absence of the injured Morne Morkel. There was no way du Plessis could have thought of a draw or a win when he began with three-and-a-half sessions to go. He just batted and batted and batted. When he was hit, he lived with the pain. When the ball misbehaved, he took the bottom hand off. When he got edges that didn't go to hand, he put them behind him. He brought his team to within 16 runs of the most amazing win, but ran himself out.

Try figuring out how it feels. To go from a certain defeat to hopes of saving the game to being favourites for the win to watching his team-mates somehow coming back with just the draw. Try figuring out how it feels for Virat Kohli. He came this close to becoming the first man - not just a visitor - to scoring two centuries in a Wanderers Test. He went through the rollercoaster over the last day and half in the field. He saw good balls and edges produced not go to hand. He saw freakish deliveries and the only ordinary decision of the match keep his side alive. He saw an out-of-form du Plessis pull out one of the great rearguards. He saw Zaheer Khan bowling over after over, putting in dive after dive and running to midwicket to back up throws when bowling.

After all but three overs of the five days, it all came down to the gambler's instinct. A gambler who has to risk all his winnings for the jackpot. With 16 runs to go in three overs - an injured Morkel and a classical No. 11 Imran Tahir in the shed - Dhoni asked two of South Africa's most verbal men, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn, if they felt like risking it all. He would have been all over South Africa had they lost a wicket then, but then there was the win, the historic win to go for.

This was between a side that was given no chance before the series by many and a side that all upbeat. They had both brought it down to this. Who had the heart to risk it?

The rule of gambling is, you should know when to walk away. When you walk away, though, you have to live with that feeling of "what if".

What if you had gone ahead with that final bet? There are no right or wrong decisions here. Dhoni could have attacked with four slips and a gully. South Africa could have taken the singles and seen what they could have done in the last over. We were not in the middle, though. We don't know how much is at stake. India's bowlers had bowled almost 50 overs each. Imagine losing and trying to recover for a Test in three days' time. South Africa had defied all odds. Imagine losing a home Test after scoring 450 in the final innings.

So we had a slightly contrived end. India, in their push to bowl as many overs to go for the win, had bowled one over more than they should have by the time the mandatory overs began. It seemed, initially, like that would hurt India, but after du Plessis' run-out and JP Duminy's wicket it seemed like that over could actually be the one where India could force a result. Ironically, though, that extra over turned out to be a non-event. Both teams chose to walk away. They will wonder what might have happened had they had gone for the win. That's hindsight, though. In the middle, in that atmosphere, it is difficult to take calls that can possibly undo all the hard work done by their team-mates.

So we have no clear winner. Only moral victories. The feud shall continue. If this was happening in a squared circle, you would have heard, "This. Is. Awesome."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by m_ilind on (December 24, 2013, 17:52 GMT)

This game was all but lost by India, until Rahane ran out Faf du Plessis. The look on the Indian fielders before that dismissal said it all. Full credit to SA for coming back so strongly on the 4th and 5th days. India's bowling looks as ineffective as ever. Ishant's bowling on the last day was a big concern. It lacked pace and intensity, and he seemed to just go thru the motions. That India was hoping for a draw was clear, when Shami bowled a maiden to Steyn without making him play, by not attacking the stumps.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 13:24 GMT)

Finally some article that gives respect to the decisions made in the middle. I don't understand why people always CRITICIZE the decisions of players and team management. Why do people think they are wiser ? Why cant we just RESPECT their decisions ? We're not gonna change anything anyway.

Posted by shukurbasha on (December 24, 2013, 4:13 GMT)

Sid, lovely article, I truely love this...

Posted by borninthetimeofSRT on (December 24, 2013, 3:40 GMT)

I wonder when India will get rid of the tag that they are a weak side while touring. My memory recollects that India has played some very fascinating draws with the no. 1 sides over the last decade or so, on the foreign soil, be it Steve Waugh's retirement test or the last test series with SA when Kallis held the fort to bring his team to rescue. Both those series' were for India to come out on the top. Let's admit it, it's never going to be like the Ashes which has seldom been a story of close contests. India probably have the busiest calendar in world cricket, and to be a side consistently ranking in the top three (in all formats) speaks volumes. Critics must give India a break and accept that winning only does not make up for being a strong side while touring. India now have a fabulous young side, and it has shown how smoothly a team can gothrough the process of transition. We may be seeing the start of something big here.

Posted by bonobo on (December 24, 2013, 1:45 GMT)

3 test series!!!!!!!!please

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 0:15 GMT)

Amazing Article Sid !!! Hoping for close fight in next match too.

Posted by xylo on (December 23, 2013, 21:58 GMT)

Very well written article.

Posted by abhinavpraneet on (December 23, 2013, 21:02 GMT)

Its been mentioned in numerous comments already, so I will go ahead and say it once more, brilliant game of cricket and an equally brilliant piece of writing! Way to go Sid! This was picture perfect advertisement for test cricket. No clear dominance of any one side, bat not overpowering the ball (as has been the case in ODIs and T-20s), every player, regardless of age, experience or form battling it out. Heartening to see Zak back in action - being a spearhead for this young Indian attack. Ishant surprised with some disciplined bowling, reaping the rewards of key wickets, and Shami putting on a good show in his early career. I thought Ashwin did a good supporting job of keeping things tight at his end. This test only leaves us wondering - what if this was a full blown test series, ala Ashes?!! 4 more tests of this edgy action would have delighted every test cricket lover.

Posted by pvr726 on (December 23, 2013, 20:54 GMT)

You may say that 'both teams' walked away from the gamble, but it was just done by SA really. India hasn't walked away, and in bowling one more over than necessary, they gave SA the ample chance, which SA didn't have the heart to take it in the end.

India didn't bowl to restrict scoring, all day, they bowled to get wickets. It was beyond their means.. A team not capable of taking 20 opponent wickets can't win a test it is as simple for India and they know they have to have more attacking bowling, but apart from that they don't have to live with any what-ifs and psycological effects.The same is not true of SA. They came this close to a historic win, the greatest ever chase in the history of test cricket. Firstly, the so well settled batsman, didn't get out for a technical batting error (to get bowled or caught).. he ran himself out... was it because the asking rate was mounting? Not by any modern standards.Then, not trying for 16 runs with 3 wickets is a bigger blunder. Sorry.

Posted by BravoNovember on (December 23, 2013, 19:21 GMT)

I like your writing Sid and have enjoyed many of your articles but I don't necessarily agree you placing India and SA on even scale when it came to their approaches towards winning this match. Dhoni attacked all along and only found the need to be defensive in the last 4 overs when he knew a freakish edge here or there could cost him the game. SA on the other hand were more fearful of losing than winning that they never showed the urge to win. They were hoping to play the game out and gladly take a win if it was a by-product of their actions and not as an objective. I am not trying to be critical of SA or disgrace their effort. In fact, for them to have got to the position they got themselves in, is nothing short of spectacular. But to say both teams gave up on winning is little unfair to India. India tried and tried every bit of it but SA didn't try to win as much as they tried not to lose.

Posted by Pickwick on (December 23, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

What would Steve Waugh's team have done if they were batting with 3 wickets left and a hard hitting all rounder at the crease ? Settled for a draw ? If SA had won, I dont see India recovering psychologically for Durban. I think it was a poor decision to avoid going for a win. They had a less than 10-15% chance of losing as a consequence [in my view]. I think even Dale Steyn agrees with this, judging from his facial expression after hitting that last ball six and his reported consternation at Philander's refusal to take singles when he was on strike. Getting that far for just a draw ? Like stopping 50 ft short of Everest summit in fair weather conditions so that you can say you survived Everest.

Posted by ProdigyA on (December 23, 2013, 19:10 GMT)

The Durban pitch is not as fast as the wanderers, so India can go with the same pace attack but bring in Jadeja for Ashwin. If Ashwin had contributed in this match like JP and Tahir did in the second innings, India could have won the match.

Posted by anurag23bhide on (December 23, 2013, 19:08 GMT)

This is quite simply the best piece of writing I have read in a long, long time, and it needed to be, to describe with justice what we witnessed on the field. Well done Sid, BRILLIANT work!!

Posted by keeraan13 on (December 23, 2013, 19:05 GMT)

@Arvind_504:i think we over react and expect too much.Rohit Sharma should be part of the team.This is just his 3rd test match, lets be fair.He played only 1 bad shot that it and lost his wicket in 1st innings.2nd innings dismissal he was lil unlucky, wid variable bounce.Remember even Kohli took about 5 tests to score a century outside india.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 18:46 GMT)

Vijay, Pujara and Kohli showed us they have the right temperament to play test cricket. Zaheer, Ishant & Shami makes a decent attack. I didn't watch the last day, but expected India to win comfortably. Did they bowl badly and enough chances weren't created ? or the pitch did not provide enough assistance in the last day ?

There were few chances put down by Indian fielders. Something to improve before the next test. Ashwin needs to play some role in the last day. If he is not going to be of much help, we should go with another fast bowler.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 18:18 GMT)

I am amazed SA did not try their best to win in last 5 ovrs instead they were more worried about losing it..

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 18:06 GMT)

It is sad that we have only two in this series.It would have been keenly fought out contest if it was a 4 test match series.Hope administrators take this into account while planning future tours as the world cricket has limited quality test playing nations.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 17:54 GMT)

Brilliant article Sid!!!!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 17:50 GMT)

this test is real test of many characters.

Posted by Arvind_504 on (December 23, 2013, 17:47 GMT)

+1 Simona...but its of no use as he'll pick the same team again. Though Ishant Sharma picked wickets in the first innings I don't really thing he should be there in team and is the most luckiest one to be in team,just merely because of his height and slight speed but no control over his bowling, line and length, and Rohit sharma, I don't see any chance of him playing well in the second test too due to his lazy footwork. Bowling line up should have been zaheer, Umesh, Shami, Kumar and Jadeja and yes Rohit sharma should be replaced. We need an attacking bowling link not just to contain..!!

Posted by Sajitha_Thoma on (December 23, 2013, 17:46 GMT)

We could try Ashwin as an opener and strengthen the pace battery

Posted by Indian-cricket-analyst on (December 23, 2013, 17:35 GMT)

In the last hour of day 4: India deserved to be the winners and didn't deserve to lose. Likewise, SA didn't deserve to be winners and deserved to lose.

In the last hour of day 5, SA deserved to be the winners and didn't deserve to lose. Likewise, India didn't deserve to be winners and deserved to lose.

This is why it was the greatest draw in test cricket. It isn't a case where one team was fighting tooth and nail in the last hour to draw the test match

Posted by AB_DeVilliers on (December 23, 2013, 17:25 GMT)

Is it me, or is Sid a seriously talented writer? He produces some gems, and I heard over the radio he's not even 30! Amazingly well done, keep it up.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 17:22 GMT)

Well India is a batting unit and SA is a bowling unit.

If India were chasing and SA are bowling, both teams would have pushed for a Win. As its the other way around, both teams opted for a draw rather than going for a win. With 3 overs left, SA didn't put bat to ball and choose to leave deliveries. India didn't bowl wicket to wicket and targetted 6-8 stump.

End of the day, Awesome test match and both teams deserved a WIN......

Posted by inswing on (December 23, 2013, 17:15 GMT)

With 5 overs to go, SA had it won. They threw away a win, as far as I am concerned. It was an easy target, no great hitting like T20 required. They were not 9 down but only 7 down. It was truly shocking that they decided not to take the easy win. Even SA supporters in the stadium could be seen very surprised and mad that SA wasn't trying to score. Poor captaincy from Smith, and weak bowling by Indian bowlers on the 5th day. But there is no doubt as to whose match it was to take.

Posted by Baratheonking on (December 23, 2013, 17:12 GMT)

Dougie25, you are abs right. I'm n Indian fan but facts are facts.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (December 23, 2013, 17:06 GMT)

The final result of this game was a sick joke really. If I were du Plessis or de Villiers I would have gone to a different bar to the others,maybe taken Petersen along. Okay, so du Plessis took a suicidal run. But with only 16 to get one might have expected an attempt to get there. What followed instead was the ridiculous after the sublime. Steyn showed his capability off the final ball. I do not believe that an attempt to win could not have happened.They could have done it in singles. And what in any case is wrong in daring to risk losing in order to win. If Steyn or Philander had got out in the attempt then the shutters could if necessary come down.A partly guilty party is the ridiculous rule forbidding runners- a piece of sadistic mindlessness which handicaps the genuinely injured. It needs overturning. To get so far and yet stay so far away was a waste of a truly golden opportunity. No amount of platitudes can change that!

Posted by velsing on (December 23, 2013, 16:46 GMT)

Brilliant article to go with a brilliant test match. Well written, Mr Monga!

Posted by Rohit... on (December 23, 2013, 16:41 GMT)

India need to dig deeper and see what they lack...

1. They need a bowler who can make the new ball talk... Ishant & Zaheer were able to take ickets with the old decepting ball, not with the new swinging ball...Shami was lucky to get all the wicket he got even with the old ball.

2. Ashwin is really a burden with the ball when India move overseas... Is he there as a batsman only?

3. Dhawan is not willing to respect the best bowling line up in the world... He is not leaving the new ball and is creating pressure on Pujara & Kohli t bail the team out.

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

This article reminds me the legendary wrestling between Shaun Michael & The Undertaker in Wrestlemania..

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

Awesome article Sid.....,,,,

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 16:14 GMT)

Lack of fifth bowler was evident from India. All those years they have been playing with four bowlers with Sehwag/Sachin/Ganguly/ Yuvraj/Raina rolling over arms effectively to lend support. This test there was none. I guess the proper eleven will be to include Umesh/Bhuvan. Leave Ashwin and Rohit out and include Jadeja to act as the lone spinner. In these pitches Jadeja will be more effective than Ashwin with his darts. But thats just me. Hope MSD does what I am suggesting here!! Go India and make the history.

Posted by Dougie25 on (December 23, 2013, 16:07 GMT)

A lot of cocky comments coming out of the same Indian supporters that were slagging India off. India do not deserve to be No. 1 after this one test. Beat SA and the other top tier teams both home and away, consistently, and you will deserve that status.

If India deserved the win, they'd have taken the necessary wickets to do so. Instead, they allowed SA to come within 8 runs of winning the game. 8 runs. That is impressive and India were lucky, in my honest opinion, to walk away with a draw. They batted extremely well, and bowled extremely well in places, but they lacked the necessary grit to win the game. And this, whilst SA were facing some injury concerns.

One swallow does not a summer make. Go out and thrash SA, and then beat some other Tier 1 teams, and then come asking for the no.1 status. Until that point, keep working on it; you're not far off.

Posted by x_lnc on (December 23, 2013, 15:27 GMT)

India should go with Vijay, Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit/Dhawan, Dhoni, Jadeja/Ashwin, Zaheer, Ishant, Shami and Yadav for Durban Test.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 15:09 GMT)

Brilliant test match. Twenty20 can not match the charm of test cricket.

Posted by WC96QF on (December 23, 2013, 14:54 GMT)

Last few lines from the writer are interesting. If it comes down to moral victories, India are indisputable winners. After having been slammed by all and sundry before the Test and getting smashed in the ODIs, they pushed the World No. 1 test team all the way. The Saffers had to dig really deep and just abt managed a draw. Go India, go !

Posted by BrainsRam on (December 23, 2013, 14:24 GMT)

@HiyerNHiyer :

Watch and analyze the match properly. If you have to take out one of the 2 openers, it should be Shikar who has to go as Vijay, by Dhoni's own admission, played very important roles in blunting the new ball attack in both innings even though he didn't score a fifty or scored only 6 in the first. On the other hand, Shikar struggled and got out in both innings trying to hit out of trouble.

Yes, India needs one more fast bowler and I will rate Ashwin with good technique as a better Test batsman than Jadeja and he should be the one who can play at No. 6, if India choose to play 4 seamers - can go with Bhuvi who is also a decent bat if they do not want to weaken the batting too much - else go for broke with Umesh and his raw pace. My gut feeling is Dhoni doesn't like to change his team easily and may not make any changes to his playing eleven.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 13:49 GMT)

just ipl@ in johanesbuarg pakistan medicore team bowled out for 49 , and the record is very dificult to break only paksitan can do it.

Posted by pjd_Howzat on (December 23, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

How could AB actually loose points on the Reliance Rating System for this???? He was at 909 before the test, he is now on 906 - explain that one to me, or maybe he does not get the bonus by having a ENG, AUS or IND next to his name

Posted by sidh78 on (December 23, 2013, 12:40 GMT)

yes it is disapointing that ind can't win this match but it is moral victory for yong & enexperienced indian team.becoz before the start of the series every one said that SA win by an inning& match will over in 2-3 days by seining the the other sc team last performanaces.but what happen in actual,ind dominate 4.5 days.every one says that indian batsmans not able to score more than total 300 in both innings.but the same indian batsmans score near 750 runs on fast bouncy seaming green pitch againsty the best bowlling attack of the world at their backyard(where many teams can not make even 50 odd runs &other sc team batsman can not stay there)as every one know indian bowling attack is weak but they all out SA below 250.yes last day they not bowl well& not won the match for india but not lost also.abd& duflesi are great players and they saved sa team before against great aus aatack in they do it against weak ind attack which is not a big thing for them.

Posted by blthndr on (December 23, 2013, 12:24 GMT)

one thing india hav done thats admirable...they play for win they didnt use the negative tactics (bowling wide to the stump or any delay tactics) through out the match to draw....

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 12:05 GMT)

Good match but why the fifth day pitch was flat?

Posted by blthndr on (December 23, 2013, 11:56 GMT)

it is unfair to say who deserve matter what this is a great test match not just for the viewer bt for the game itsself....i dont know its upto icc or the curator to one thing is noticable....the pitch become more flat after they used the big heavy roller just before the start of the second innings of SA....and before that they used only the small roller...and the tv commentator also said before 2nd innings india they colud hav used the big one to make it little bit flatter and at that time the ball is doing its ok...if its a regulation its fine...otherwise!!!!.....

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 10:50 GMT)

@Pradip Mayavat...

I suppose we could all say the same thing about Kallis's wicket... India didn't deserve it. Plus, given the fact that India didn't have to face SA's in-form bowler for the ENTIRE second innings, just shows how lucky India ended up being.

Suppose Dhoni should have used DRS to get AB out... oh wait, India doesn't believe in DRS.

@ Badal Das... du Plessis didn't choose to play spinners... Dhoni decided that to try avoid the game being called off. I bet you if the roles were reversed, you wouldn't be calling Kholi a cry-baby for complaining about the light?

Posted by HiyerNHiyer on (December 23, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

For the next test, India must go in with four medium pacers i.e. ZAK, Ishaant, Shami and Yadav / Bhuvi. Kohli and Rohit can be part time spinners. Rohit can open with Shikar in place of Murali Vijay and we can have Jadeja replacing Ashwin. My team would be : Shikar, Rohit, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Dhoni, Ashwin / Jadeja, Bhuvi / Yadav, Zak, Ishaant, Shami. This would give us five bowlers and (if Jadeja plays) two left hand bats.

Posted by HiyerNHiyer on (December 23, 2013, 10:24 GMT)

For Mr Smith and the Indian Cricket team "bashers" .. If India did not have the desire to win..They would not have bowled an "EXTRA Over".. they would have slowed down proceedings.. they would not have tried to score quick on day 4.

Dhoni, inspite of his limited bowling resources outpaced SA.. The SA team and fans better get worried because Kingsmead is a ground where SA has lost their previous four tests including one to India.. I am sure this was playing on their minds.. This is wishful thinking..but just in case India ends up winning the next Test.. then I wonder how much would SA's decision to play out the last two overs for a draw come back to haunt them

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 9:02 GMT)

I think no one noticed but ABs LBW denied by Davis was the turning point of the match....ABs clearly on the stumps and plumbed by shami and safs need more than 200 at dat time....

Posted by GlobalCricketLover on (December 23, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

As a follower of SA cricket, I am over the moon with their performance in the second innings. May be Faf need not have taken a risky single when someone like Philander was at the other end who can bat. You can easily ignore such simple mistakes considering how long he batted and under what pressure. But starting the 4th innings with 450+ runs behind and reaching where they did is an amazing performance. SA team should be proud of themselves. I fully support Philander/Steyn's decision.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 8:05 GMT)

I have a problem with the statement "SA have won it in the heart of fans"@just ipl..If SA had been so confident they should have gone for a win(even for the sake of cricket).Dont forget they got cheap runs off spin and part time bowling due to du plessis cry baby attitude,complaining abt bad light yesterday.And KAllis was clearly playing for himself trying to get cheap runs to boost his average,he was dropped on 5 so clearly riding his luck.And india didnt play for a draw because on 4th day most of batsmen including dhoni got out trying to accelerate.Considering mornr morkels injury however AND superb match saving innings from the two,India dosent desreve to win (weak lollipop bowling attack),but neither does SA.

Posted by sreehk on (December 23, 2013, 7:49 GMT)

Superb article as a tribute to an amazing game of Test Match Cricket! So many people have talked and too many opinions on win loss and draw. It does not matter now. Perhaps what matters most now is the fact that the test match at Durban will be watched 100 times more keenly because it will be fought 1000 times more fiercely. What more can one ask from the sport!

Posted by StaalBurgher on (December 23, 2013, 7:31 GMT)

Uhh... SA did go for the win but then they lost wickets at the end and ended up with two bowlers at the crease with the field back and India bowling bouncers. It was not possible to win after Faf got out himself run out. India are so worried now. They know they won the toss, SA lost a bowler and got a gift Kallis wicket and still couldn't win. Unlikely all that good fortune will come their way again. Victory at Kingsmead for the Proteas.

Posted by 20ty2yards on (December 23, 2013, 5:56 GMT)

@ KiwiRocker - your assessment on easy wicket is 100% accurate - that explains why pakistan amassed 49. Asad Shafiq (averages 33 in SA) is your best new find - seriously?? is pak batting future so bare?

Posted by JustIPL on (December 23, 2013, 5:49 GMT)

Off course after scoring 450 runs in the last innings you wont take a risk with tailenders to hand over a win to bwoling side who could not take 10 wickets despite having enough time and runs in hand. LOL. Match might have been drawn in the record books but it is won by SA in the hearts of fans.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (December 23, 2013, 5:46 GMT)

@ KiwiRocker "BCCI choose the 'easy' venues but can not choose the results" Really? I need not go to internet to get my daily dose of jokes and wisecracks now. If BCCI would have allowed the luxury of choosing the venue then they would have reschedule the test from SAF fortress of Joburg to dusty snake pit of Rajkot or Kanpur. Anyways good on you are doing the good job enlightening everyone's mood here.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 5:17 GMT)

@kiwirocker. U r too much bro..i guess you are anpakistani..makes me wonder what are you doing commenting on this article as pakistan wasn't playing. If it had been a serious critique then you wouldnt have missed the fact that most of indian middle order failed in 2nd innings in pursuit of quick runs..and hiw come Vijay's classical opener role got no mention..all you could manage was spit out venom..this is not the forum bro..u r no different than those indians who do the similar on matches involving pakistan..equally pathetic

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 4:55 GMT)

there comes KiwiRocker and his wonderful assessment of Indian performance. I thought you had retired along with Sachin. anyway, all for good laugh.

Posted by humdrum on (December 23, 2013, 4:37 GMT)

@KiwiRocker:I think Steyn should have been the MOM.Zaheer got Smith in 1st dig,so don't know how he had the last laugh(unless he was relieved at being run out).If SA batting was such a success,how come they conceded a lead in the 1st dig against 'the worse bowling attack' and how come they failed to win despite the manly efforts of Smith,AB,Faf and Philander ? Remember,the SA were supposed to trample on the remains of the Indians and this result is a huge shock to SA fans--far from winning big time,they were under the pump.Hope you were watching the same match that the rest of the world was watching.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

after dominated for the best part of 5 days ( dominating complete 4 days to be fair ) india dint win juts because of one uterly bad session ( lunch session of day 5 ) , this is very dissapointing from indian fans point of view.... i think they should have taken their chances in the over styne batting... a few yorkers would have dont the trick... one excellent yorker form zaheer would have turned this game upside down ..... i know yorkers are not easy, but zaheer with all hsi experience should have been able to think that.... or even they should have told shami to bowl yorkers in last 4 balls..... but never mind this is great result....

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 3:57 GMT)

what a match.. truly test cricket is the ultimate and biggest format !! t20 can never equal the charm of a test match !!

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

Outstanding cricket match. India has a lot of positives to take for the next match.

1. Their batsmen proved that they are not scared of SA fast men. They are no more flat track bullies.

2. Their bowlers proved that they can match SA pacers in ability,throughout a test match, where Dale Steyn went wicket less for over 100 runs in an innings. SA had the liberty of 4 pacers in first innings and 3 in the next. India had only 3 in both.

3. Dhoni as a captain excelled than Smith with his inexperienced side and held their nerves in a. chocking situation.

4. Most importantly, they did not lose the game.

For SA, the only positive is that ABD and FDP fought outstandingly well to save the match, which was an unlikely result on Day5 morning.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 2:53 GMT)

2 teams of 11 members each. Plays for 6 Hours a day across 5 days. So, it is a total of 30 hours game. The total man hours involved is 30*22 = 660 Hours. That is 27 and a half days.

Even after this much of an effort we still do not have a result, there is no winner. The match is drawn. But, we are sure that we have witnessed one of the best ever games in the history. Wow!! Now try explaining this to somebody who doesn't understand this game.

Test Cricket - The mother of all games. The most comprehensive game ever invented by the human race.

Please Note :- The 27 and a half days were arrived at excluding the match officials, break timings for drinks/tea/lunch and any instances of play going over the scheduled time due to slow over rate.

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 2:48 GMT)

what a match! a perfect test, with flaws but superlative effort from both teams....if morkel was around probability of SA win was 5 it seemed initially indian team operated with a certain win frame of mind only to be proven wrong by Faf

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 RB007 on (December 23, 2013, 2:16 GMT)

Great article for a great Test Match. This was a Test fit for the gods. And it seemed as if the last day was scripted by them. What a rollercoaster! The gambling metaphor is so apt. As is the Concept of the changing perspectives of Time. Dhoni would probably have experienced what Steve Waugh went through in that Test in Kolkata as he watched the Great Heist on days 4 & 5. That Australian team was forged in steel and yet after a strong start in Chennai they went on to loose to an Indian team who had rediscovered their self confidence. Does Dhoni and his team have enough left in their tank to counter South Africa in three days time? As an aside, is it too late to change the hearts of the mandarins in the BCCI and add in a third test match?

Posted by KiwiRocker- on (December 23, 2013, 2:16 GMT)

Confirmed: India has worse bowling attacks.I can not understand how Kohli is Man of match? This award should go to Faf who literally won this match for SA. Indian fans are all hyped up with their good batting. Lets do a stock take to help Indian fans. Only Pujara ( in second inning) and Kohli clicked for India. Rest of Indian batting was utter failure. The overhyped Rohit and Dhawan were no where to be seen. Zaheer Khan was hyped before match, but Smith had last laugh. Shami looked promising though, but just promising! Smith, AB, Faf, Peterson all scored runs for SA. Kallis and Amla failed but Kallis got one of worse umpiring decisions. SA had a moral victory and more positives. Indian team and fans must be boiling that instead of winning the match with 450+ target, poor Dhoni resorted to saving the match! Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan had also done well against SA, but SA had come back strong as they are No.1 ranked team!.BCCI choose the 'easy' venues but can not choose the results!

Posted by Raju_Iyer on (December 23, 2013, 2:01 GMT)

Well written article, hats off to both teams, but special praise for Dhoni, just imagine what a boost it would be for someone like Shami who is all of 3 tests old to see his captain trusting him to bowl at the "death". And Ajinkya Rahane having patiently waited for his chance to play for India in tests, will feel like he belongs now, he did not show any nerves. I think one of the gains of playing so many matches in the IPL which have close finishes is that it toughens the mental attitudes of players. Except for the Australians, most other teams in the situation India found themselves in towards the end, would have cracked under the pressure. Don't forget the relative inexperience of this Indian team makes it somewhat of a David vs. Golitath contest, and the fact that they did not break a sweat over it augurs well for the future

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 2:01 GMT)

This. Was. An. Awesome. Article. Love you Sid! And indeed, a test which no team deserved to lose...

Posted by fifth_innings on (December 23, 2013, 1:36 GMT)

Mr. Monga you outdid yourself yet again. An excellent article and very rightly so, both the teams are going to try and win the psychological advantage out of this encounter. Nobody had hopes (esp. Indian fans) that this Indian team would be able to challenge the mighty SA's in their backyard. And have they proved many a people wrong? Perhaps Dhoni would have liked one extra bowler, this is where an allrounder can make such a huge difference to the team's balance. But hats off to Faf and AB for almost pulling off the highest run chase ever. A gambler needs to take a leap of faith sometimes in order to win big, and that did not happen here. Alas, i wonder what would Michael Clarke would have done here?

Posted by cricketcarl on (December 23, 2013, 1:36 GMT)

yah, good article, if i was a SAF fan sitting in the crowd, i would have been heartbroken, but just an amazing game, a fight to the death for five whole days and both walk away to do it again another day. both teams put in a monumental effort, is really a privilege to have been able to keep an eye on the scores over the five days and to check the final result in the morning (here in australia). cricket really is the winner here, may sound corny, but it is. really is a game to be savoured, a lot of fun to talk about this match, the what ifs, the shoulda coulda didnt and dids, as the first ball is being delivered next test, im sure we'll all be holding our collective breathes...and from there, its anyones game, bat versus ball, india and saf - chase the glory!! better to go down in flames than to sit safely on a chair sucking your thumb

Posted by nachiketajoshi on (December 23, 2013, 1:10 GMT)

Wonderful analogy with the WWF, Sidharth - and a compelling story!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 0:48 GMT)

India never played for a draw .. If Dhoni had any intension of playing out for a draw, he could have placed 8 fielders on the off-side and asked the bowlers to bowl wide out the off-stump or they could have done some delaying tactics .... Infact they bowled an extra over and attacked the batsman all day ... As a number 1 test team, SA must have gone for the victory when the asking rate is 4.5 ...

Posted by Amit68 on (December 23, 2013, 0:43 GMT)

It. was. awesome. HOWEVER. It. could. have. been. magical. I think SA should have gone for it. India were giving Philander the singles and Steyn the boundaries if they dared. They were capable of doing it. Smith should have let his hounds loose and told them to go for it. I for one am convinced that a certain #1 side of yore would have devoured the opportunity. You know, the one with a classical #11 nicknamed for a bird, and a tall fast bowler who preceded him in the lineup... This was not like a gambler walking away from potential winnings. This was like sitting across the room from the girl of your dreams smiling at you and getting up and walking away hoping you will meet again someday.

Posted by PranayC on (December 23, 2013, 0:41 GMT)

I think it is a futile discussion on who didn't push for a win because frankly speaking until the last three overs, no one, absolutely no one, thought this match could end in a draw. And that's the beauty of it and for me, it was a fair result. SA are number 1 in tests and for a good reason. I didn't expect them to roll over. But everyone expected India to roll over and die which they didn't and that's important for a good match. A test match, see-sawing for 5 days, final outcome not sure till the last 3 deliveries, I would say, well done test cricket!

Posted by Former_SJCC on (December 23, 2013, 0:06 GMT)

Spending so much time trying to explain how great this match was and comparing it to WWE, just shows poor penmanship. this test was the greatest showpiece, of this awesome game called cricket and for the author needing to compare this to the theater of other sports shows if i may say, a step-motherly approach towards cricket. Like so many things in life, this match put the players in a spot where they had to make a judgement call of whether to go for glory or live to fight an another day. I am no author, but i feel that the article could have elaborated on the tussle between the teams and within that between individuals and their approaches, the very fabric that makes Test cricket the ultimate examination of a cricketers skill sets.

Posted by jatstheword on (December 23, 2013, 0:04 GMT)

Awesome article Sid, exactly the sort of feeling for the players in the middle that none of us can fathom. People will fault/ support both sides with various smarty pants arguments but the basic truth is, even for the most experienced players, situations like these boil down to gut instinct and as humans, our most primeval instinct is RISK AVERSION. We fear losses more than the possibility of spectacular success. This is exactly what I think both India and SAF ultimately did, follow their basic, primeval instinct. Nevertheless, one of the best test matches ever, in my view!!!! Roll on Durban!!!!

Posted by Bernoulli on (December 23, 2013, 0:03 GMT)

The man of this match should be the pitch curator. What a beauty! Five days of a pitch that was neither a flat one nor a minefield. A tie would have been the most perfect result almost reminiscent of Chepauk in 1987 when Australia dominated the test for the first 4 days and Kapil decided to take on Border's challenge of 347 runs in a day. Hope both teams will preserve the same energy and give us an equally entertaining test match at Durban, something the ongoing Ashes has failed to offer this time. As the author wrote above, there can be lot of "what ifs" after such a match but sometime during the third session I wished things happened a bit slower yesterday offering SA with 20-30 fewer overs which was opposite to what I was feeling yesterday when India was seven down. I couldn't wait for the declaration. I guess Dhoni is no Clarke and should never be.

Posted by spinkingKK on (December 22, 2013, 23:59 GMT)

It looked like a fantastic, greatest draw of all time finish, from a distance. But, to me, it looked as if it was all scripted. Because, the tactics of both the captains looked like they were forcing this result. Neither of them wanted to force a win when their team had more chance. So, it is an apt title for the article. "How much" does the test meant?

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 23:48 GMT)

Indeed a tell tale sign of why a test is actually a 'test'. Well balanced teams or not - which I say because of a hyped up Indian batting line-up and the same South African bowling line-up, the game is a leveler.

The test was a draw, left a billion questions to ponder - but the game won.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 23:32 GMT)

Don't agree to the comparison to WWE. Even though you say that this is real and not like WWE, I don't know how in the first place you had heart to compare one of the greatest test matches ever to orchestrated WWE wrestling. Otherwise very nice article, kudos.

Posted by ashok16 on (December 22, 2013, 22:39 GMT)

Actually Mr. Monga, it is not awesome. To play for five days and have a draw as a possibility is not awesome. The choices made by both India and South Africa in the last couple of overs were shameful. One cannot blame the teams. A system that allows for such a contrived result is where the problem is. As it is, though a lot of people follow test matches, very few really watch them. And cricket is having to resort to gimmicks such as batting power plays to survive.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (December 22, 2013, 22:33 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 out it would 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 CRYPTIC on (December 22, 2013, 22:23 GMT)

Summed up the match scenario perfectly.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 22:17 GMT)

Great Story. Loved it as a fan on WWE and TEST CRICKET.

Posted by Saffacricket on (December 22, 2013, 22:16 GMT)

A measured, sensible, and reasonable analysis, devoid of the hot air being spouted. posturing and arguing is pointless. Enjoy the fact that this was one of the great Test matches of recent times. Kudos to India - you were underdogs and nearly stole it. Kudos to SA, you were under the kosh most of the game, and salvaged an unlikely draw. Thank you to both sides for great sport and entertainment. You must both be exhausted. Thank you again.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2013, 22:12 GMT)

the greatest draw around, it was a test overall contained in one.

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

Debate can go forever but I think it's a fair result for the evenly poised teams.

Posted by Wd-X on (December 22, 2013, 21:53 GMT)

This was a brilliant test but awesome would've been one of the teams winning it. They shoud've gone for the win!!

It's all well and good for the purists but for the casual fan a SA record chase or India winning in the last few overs would have ensured this match would be one they would remember forever. As it is those last three overs would've felt like a farce and just another reason for them not to bother with test cricket. The reaction of the crowd should give enough indication of what people think.

The stands are not full, test cricket is on a precipice and SA had the chance of utterly demoralizing India. Instead they were gutless in those final 3 overs. They could've been heroes immortalized forever, instead in the future this test will just be remembered for a few individuals.

At least in WWE, the spectators leave feeling satisfied and get their moneys worth. That did not happen here!

Posted by wapuser on (December 22, 2013, 21:50 GMT)

Kallis being out like tha;, had there been drs, the match might have ended much more early. All credit to ab de viilliers & faf, it was a class act

Posted by glen1 on (December 22, 2013, 21:33 GMT)

For all those parents who think kids are wasting time following cricket on ESPN, here is a bonus; reading ESPN articles will help them get good grades in English Composition. I was wondering how long it would take Sid to pen this; just about 100 minutes.

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South Africa v India at Durban - Dec 26-30, 2013
South Africa won by 10 wickets
South Africa v India at Johannesburg - Dec 18-22, 2013
Match drawn
SAf Invit XI v Indians at Benoni - Dec 13-14, 2013
Match abandoned without a ball bowled
South Africa v India at Centurion - Dec 11, 2013
No result
South Africa v India at Durban - Dec 8, 2013
South Africa won by 134 runs
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