Jadeja flashes his overseas spin credentials
That Ravindra Jadeja has scored three triple-centuries in the Ranji Trophy sometimes does him a disservice, at least in the eyes of those who look from the outside. People tend to look at him as an allrounder, but when they see him out of depth against quality Test bowling they ridicule him. You look at him as a pure spinner, though, and you see value. He has surprised many with how well he has come back after being dropped from the international side in 2010, but not himself, MS Dhoni, Duncan Fletcher and the selectors who have backed him.
Jadeja has come back a stronger man, and even though he doesn't have too many niceties of flight and dip, he puts a lot of body into his deliveries. He is accurate, and can keep bowling long spells. Not every ball of his turns, which adds to the batsmen's troubles. He is now the first India spinner to have taken four wickets in an innings outside India since July 2011. If he takes one of the five remaining South African wickets, this will be the first away five-for by an India spinner since the first week of 2011. This is not to say R Ashwin would have done worse than him - there is no telling with the assistance available in Durban - but the man picked for the job has done it for India.
After having collapsed for 334 on the second day and having conceded 82 for 0 before stumps, India badly needed to slow the scoring down. Their first target would have been to delay South Africa's charge as much as possible. Not only would that reduce the chances of a loss here - also keeping the weather in mind - it would possibly bring a fourth innings into play. The only way to delay the charge on these fast-scoring grounds is to take wickets. Jadeja took four of the five with his unwavering accuracy, his action on the ball and the occasional turn that cast doubts in batsmen's minds. It is largely thanks to his bowling - he bowled 32 overs in a shortened day - that South Africa haven't yet gone past India's total and looked for quick runs.
Jadeja also had a point to prove. "This is a huge achievement for me," he said. "People always say - I have heard a lot - that I have played all my Tests in India, and that I can turn the ball only in India. It was my dream to come here and take a five-for. Luckily, I have taken four today. Tomorrow I will try to take the fifth as soon as possible so that everyone knows I can turn the ball outside India too."
Alviro Petersen was one of the four that fell to Jadeja. He scored 62 before he did so and faced 40 balls from Jadeja, so is in a good position to narrate what works for him. "It was obviously difficult to play him because there aren't many scoring areas," Petersen said. "The lines he bowls, the lengths he bowls are obviously good. With the ball turning you [the batsman] have to take out certain shots. It was quite difficult but, at the same time, I thought in the position that we are in we have played well. We would have liked to see him take fewer wickets and make the seamers bowl more, but I thought he took the pressure off their bowlers quite nicely."
Jadeja said he had already found some footmarks when bowling to left-hand batsmen. And he is quite good hitting a spot repeatedly. Against right-hand batsmen he said all he wanted to do was to be at them. "I was just trying to bowl in the right areas," Jadeja said. "For the right-hand batsman, off stump, just outside. I was just trying to bowl in good areas because the odd ball was turning. I was just thinking not to give them room, and bowl stump to stump."
Petersen said that Jadeja's regular strikes meant South Africa couldn't push for the advantage just yet, not least because they might have to bat last against him. "I think, you know, sometimes when you try to push the game you get yourselves into trouble," Petersen said. "The first priority for us was to get ourselves a couple of partnerships, which we have done. You can always - in the latter stages of your team's innings - push on, so I don't think we have reached that stage yet. It's a case of first of all trying to get to their total and then take it from there. I think we have played nicely."
It was a slightly strange end to the day where India didn't take the new ball - doing that might have pushed them off the field earlier than they eventually did go off, given the deteriorating light. South Africa, on the other hand, who have more running to do with this being a home series, didn't go after the spinners, not planning too much for the weather, the forecasts of which are not promising. A significant part of it, though, was down to the doubts Jadeja created.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo