South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 1st day December 26, 2013

Vijay and Pujara fifties drive India

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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.

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.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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,

  • 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

  • android_user on December 27, 2013, 13:27 GMT

    Rohit is back to his normal self.... I am afraid how many tests he will take to prove his "hidden talent " ... May be 50 tests.... rahane is anyday better than him my miles.... he may not look flamboyant, but rahane is well accomplished. if we order players by talent and technique in this current Indian batting it would be like this, pujara , kohli, rahane, Vijay, Rohit, dhawan, ashwin. jadeja, dhoni....I don't understand what talent Rohit posses that selectors are.seeing in him..... rahane needs to be applauded greatly, he was in pressure to perform, remember he was dropped from ODI team after just.one failure .... anyway rahane looks confident now, he is very good t20 players too, don't worry about slow strike rate, he can score quickly..... I hope rahane has some luck in his favour.....

  • android_user on December 27, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    To all of you who are conplaining about India batting slowly. if they would have tried to attack such body line bowling they would have got out easily. The afrikans are taking advantage of their surface by bowling bouncers after bouncers drying things ip i would not mind even if india does not win let them bowl for three make them pay for it work the crap out of their bowlers

  • rahsun on December 27, 2013, 13:01 GMT

    @TommyTuckerSA... SA is playing negative cricket by bowling bouncers and body line bowling..If you want high scoring games you better watch T20's. This is how Test matches are played and that's the beauty of Test cricket.

  • android_user on December 27, 2013, 13:00 GMT

    I fear Rohit Sharma doesn't become another Yuvraj Singh as far as tests are concerned. This tour has separated Kohli from the rest just as 1991/92 tour had differentiated Sachin from others.