South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 1st day

Vijay and Pujara fifties drive India

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran

December 26, 2013

Comments: 366 | Text size: A | A

India 181 for 1 (Vijay 91*, Pujara 58*) v South Africa
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Match Point: Players taken off too soon

The last time India played a Test in Durban, it was a quick green track where a score of 205 proved enough for a significant first-innings lead. Three years on, there was precious little in the dry surface for the fast bowlers, and both captains were enthusiastic about batting first. MS Dhoni called correctly, and the India's batsmen flourished on the flat deck, with M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara putting on an unbroken 140-run stand for the second wicket.

Morne Morkel celebrates after dismissing Shikhar Dhawan, South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 1st day, December 26, 2013
Morne Morkel took the only wicket that fell on the first day © Associated Press

Vijay won't want 2013 to end. The year began with a surprise call-up to the Indian Test squad, which he answered with a couple of 150-plus scores against Australia, and is now ending with performances in South Africa that will earn him respect from a legion of doubters. The innings in Johannesburg showed his ability to graft, and the same patience and application - not words usually associated with Vijay - were in evidence early on in Durban as well as he ended the day nine away from a first Test century away from home.

Pujara, who has already established a reputation as a batsman who loves to score big, was almost anonymous as he cruised to another half-century. Almost all his runs against the quicks were scored on the leg side, cashing in when the bowlers strayed on his pads. This was also different from his soak-up-the-pressure effort in the second innings at the Wanderers as, realising conditions were favourable, he scored at a more nimble pace from the start. It nudged his career average above 70, and extended perhaps the most successful start to a Test career since Michael Hussey's.

Things didn't go to plan for South Africa right from the outset. In the search for swing early on, the ball was pitched up and punished by some non-violent punches down the ground for four from both Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay.

Vernon Philander, who earlier this week ascended to No. 1 in the Test bowling rankings, got only three overs before South Africa turned to the pacier, dig-it-in approach of Morne Morkel. If there were doubts over whether Morkel would hit full speed after an astonishingly quick recovery from an ankle strain suffered last week, they were put aside as he steamed in for a spell full of 90mph deliveries.

Smart stats

  • The last time India scored more than 150 with the loss of just one wicket on the first day of a Test outside the subcontinent was at The Oval in 2007, when they lost their second wicket at 189, and went on to score 664 in their first innings.
  • The 140-run stand between M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara is India's second-highest for the second wicket in South Africa; Rahul Dravid and Deep Dasgupta had added 171 in Port Elizabeth in 2001.
  • If Vijay gets a century, it'll be the eighth by a visiting batsman in Durban in the last five matches (since 2009). South Africa's batsmen haven't scored a single hundred here during this period.
  • Vijay's unbeaten 91 is his highest in an overseas Test. His previous-best in 14 innings was 58, in Colombo in 2010.
  • Dale Steyn has gone 67 overs without taking a wicket - his only wicket of the series was Shikhar Dhawan, whom he dismissed in his fifth over in India's first innings in Johannesburg.

Dale Steyn, coming off a mediocre Test in Johannesburg, also switched to the fast-and-furious strategy after realising there wasn't much chance of the ball jagging around. In tandem, Steyn and Morkel produced a short, intense burst that tested both openers' techniques around off stump.

Dhawan had galloped to 28 off 36 before being tied down and losing his concentration after the drinks break, nicking the first ball to the cordon.

Vijay was more watchful, and though he was beaten several times and took blows to the box and the arm, he persevered. One of the highlights of his innings was the way he handled the short ball; with the surface providing no lateral movement, there were plenty of bouncers, but Vijay was rarely troubled, and decisively ducked or swayed out of the way. The impressive discipline he had shown in Johannesburg reappeared, as did a few of the stylish boundaries he is renowned for. His 91 included 17 boundaries, and he was particularly severe on left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, who came in for the erratic Imran Tahir.

The early short burst from Steyn and Morkel was the only time South Africa managed to apply any pressure on India. After lunch, it was all too easy for Vijay and Pujara. There was a boundary an over to start the session, as India motored along at four an over.

Steyn's wicketless spell has now stretched beyond 60 overs, Philander had no help whatsoever from the surface, and though Morkel produced a few moments of discomfort, there was no breakthrough.

One thing common to the 2010 Durban Test was the bad light that stopped play early. Even as Steyn was getting the ball to reverse in, the murky conditions led to play being called off soon after tea.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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

@GreatestGame, well said. Rahul Dravid's reading of the game as commentator is amazing much like his batting. Not cliched at all. Great player who doesn't refer to their successful career to impress listeners. Respect from SA

Posted by Greatest_Game on (December 27, 2013, 14:18 GMT)

Rahul Dravid is fast becoming my favorite commentator. He does not see the need to talk non-stop, and when he does talk he is definitely worth listening to! I always deeply appreciated watching him play, respected his unimpeachable integrity, and admired his powerful intellect.

If The Wall was running the BCCI we would be eagerly looking forward to the other tests to come on this tour. Rahul for President!

Posted by Greatest_Game on (December 27, 2013, 14:00 GMT)

Whoa! Having lived there for a few years, although 35 years ago, I should know how quickly the weather in Durban can change. Got up at 2 am here in the cricket wilderness of the USA, and went back to be around 3:30 thinking that the day would be washed out. At 8am I glanced at cricinfo and saw that not only is the game back on, but 90 runs have been added for 4 wickets. Steyn has finally fired, and in a typically explosive spell took out the very dangerous looking Vijay and Pujara, denying both what yesterday seemed inevitable centuries, and then made Rohit live up to his nickname with a 100% no-hit: the ball that hits the middle stump just can't be called a leave - its a no-hit!

Game back on: the Steyn detractors can crawl back under their rocks, the Vijay/Pujara worshippers will hopefully be quiet, & the Rohit fans will compose reams od excuses & explanations. Dhoni & Rahane are accelerating, & we may well have another exciting game after all. Steyn coming back on - what will happen?

Posted by just_a_fan on (December 27, 2013, 13:42 GMT)

@ MaruthuDelft : By others I meant players like Gambhir & Sehwag, who failed for a long time before being dropped from the team. Who do you want Rohit to be replaced with ? Rohit's record is as good as anyone in the domestic circuit. I can't think of any new player who could replace him.

Posted by android_user on (December 27, 2013, 13:40 GMT)

@Maruthudelft : give rahane some break... he playing in very critical situation here, what happens if he gets out doing that? can dhoni and jadeja last atleast 10 overs against this bowling attack??? more over its new ball that he is facing....let the ball get atleast 20 overs old, he can score quickly,

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (December 27, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

I guess people like @GRVJPR don't know much cricket. Calling STEYN an ordinary bowler is height of ignorance. ISHANT is an ordinary bowler, but STEYN is a hall of famer. How many bowlers do you know that have played for so long, and yet average around 22 ?? What's Ishant's average - more like 38

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