South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 4th day December 29, 2013

South Africa show touch more intent in race against time

Jacques Kallis, for all the questions over his third-day tactics, has put South Africa in a position from which they can't lose in Durban, and a more commanding showing from some of his team-mates on Sunday has meant a victory is still in sight too

That was Faf du Plessis' wicket - Robin Peterson

Sporting contests are generally considered tussles between two opposing teams. But there is a third dimension which sometimes defines them. Time.

As the stakes become higher, the clock becomes more important. In Durban, it is absolutely vital. Given the draw at the Wanderers and the fact that there is no third Test, everything about this series rests on the result here.

Recent summers in the region have been wet and the possibility of rain interruptions are realistic. There has been at least one on such stoppage on three of the four days played so far. Bad light often calls an early end to the day. So far, the match has been robbed off 57.5 overs - almost two sessions. With that in mind, teams have force a result here.

South Africa's actions in Johannesburg may have made them look hesitant to do that and they reinforced that perception on Saturday, when, on a sluggish surface, play meandered and it became apparent the hosts would primarily work to get themselves into a position from which they could not lose. While they've accomplished that on Sunday, they've also ensured a win is still possible by showing a touch more intent.

Defeat is unlikely for South Africa, thanks to Jacques Kallis. He copped criticism for dead batting the day away when he slowed the run-rate from its peak of four an over when Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen were batting to two an over by the final hour on day three.

Kallis saw a need to play his usual anchor role and continued doing that this morning. He needed 22 runs to bring up his 45th Test century and moved towards it with caution. It took him 49 deliveries, during which he only had 12 scoring shots. What helped South Africa then was that nightwatchman Dale Steyn kept things moving.

Steyn has a reputation for being able to slog and he took it on himself to be the aggressor. By the first drinks break, he had added 75 runs with Kallis and it seemed South Africa were well-placed for the final assault. Neither Steyn nor Kallis were the men to provide that. The former lacked the nous, the latter the energy.

Kallis had picked up a niggle during his innings, which Robin Peterson said, may require the rest to "carry him through to the end of his last Test" and could keep him from bowling. He received treatment throughout the first interval and appeared to wear a mixture of relief and exhaustion as he climbed the stairs to the changeroom when he was dismissed shortly afterwards.

The fall of both Steyn and Kallis in the space of 17 deliveries, turned out to be welcome for South Africa because it sped them up. Robin Peterson and Faf du Plessis saw out the period before lunch and then came out with an instruction. "The directive was to try and get 100 runs ahead," Peterson said.

Their intent was there; they looked for boundaries rather than waited for them. In the first three overs of the second session, Peterson and du Plessis put on 29. "We got away a little bit and decided that if we had India a little on the backfoot, we can step it up a bit."

Peterson was chiefly responsible for upping the ante. Although the ball was old and difficult to get away, Peterson hit it as hard as he could. India were eventually forced to change the ball when a seam split and that allowed Petersen to accelerate further. He scored quicker than a run a ball and his 110-run partnership with du Plessis came off just 18 overs - a run rate of 6.11.

With the pair motoring on, the South African fielders were spotted in whites and it seemed a declaration, perhaps as they pushed closer to 200 ahead, was on the cards. When Peterson was dismissed, going for a big shot, South Africa were 163 ahead and drizzle was in the air. They should have called time on their innings then because there were about to lose more time.

After a 50-minute break, which included the 20-minute tea interval, they did have reason to regret not putting India in. Du Plessis and Morne Morkel were out in the space of about an over and South Africa had no choice but to take the field, perhaps without as much of cushion as they would have liked.

Still, they would have backed their bowlers to make the 166-run lead count for something and that faith was well-placed. Steyn and Vernon Philander showed all the right intent in their opening spells. Steyn bowled quickly and bowled short, Philander searched for movement and when he found it, looked threatening. The first wicket went to him.

What South Africa will be ruing is that the rest of the attack could not follow up, especially the spinners. Peterson burgled a wicket through a brilliant piece of fielding from Faf du Plessis. "It's not my wicket, it's Faf's," he conceded, and South Africa cannot bank on luck like that if they want to win the match.

They need to make the most of the variable bounce and the aging ball, which could provide reverse swing. They also need to task certain bowlers - Morne Morkel and even Peterson and JP Duminy - with holding an end because if they concede to many, it may require them to do too much, too quickly with the bat.

They know the pressure is two-fold. To beat India, they have to beat the clock too. "We've lost a lot of time in the game. But there is definitely a result beckoning," Peterson said. "Stats show that 10 wickets can fall on the last day in Durban, so we just have to hope we are on the right side of the stats."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 10:36 GMT

    @Pula @Ashwin South Africa have in fact beaten India four times in Test matches in India. South Africa won 2-0 against India in March 2000 and two more Test matches after that.

  • ESPN on December 30, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    @Ashwin Rum...the question was not when, it was whether we did or not. Simple understanding of the Anglo language mate. I wonder what all the Indian fans are whinging about watching this first session...negative cricket again?

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    @Pula Kekana: When exactly did you beat India in India?? Not since 2000 you haven't.Get your facts straight before posting.

  • Fair on December 30, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    @Wallaroo, Dhoni should have really been more sporting. After nearly giving away the first test by attacking with unimaginative, tired 4-bowler squad (that leaked huge number of runs) which SA refused to take for the fear of losing in pursuit of remaining runs, Dhoni should have opened the field up with gaps and served dolleys with the hard new ball (with same tired, below par medium pacers) on the 4th day of second test so SA batters can make merry and leave their bowlers with ample time to constantly aim at the throats of Indian batsmen and win the wickets and the test match. Quite right!

  • Dheeban on December 30, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    Peterson: "We've lost a lot of time in the game. But there is definitely a result beckoning". Please.. He sounds as if they had not lost time, South Africa would have been in an even stronger position to win. It is this very time loss and stoppage in play that wrested the initiative from India and swung on South Africa's favour in the second day morning. India were well-set to extend their advantage if the play had continued on day 1. The might have been on their way to 400+, so Peterson, if play had not been cut short like that, South Africa may not have had such a lead and the game may have been even farther from their control.

  • Rahul on December 30, 2013, 5:44 GMT

    Today SAF no 1 reputation will be at the stake.From here on only 2 results are possible that is SAF victory or a draw. There is no Virender Sehwag in Indias rank who can run away with the run rate in one session. From here on it is SAF who can decide the course of the game. India will be very happy to seat back and let the overs and time run out and prey that weather plays its part. With the no 1 ranking and all the pre series talk of steam rolling Indian (sub continental) batsmen SAF find themselves on the last day of the series with score line at 0-0 and honors shared so far. It will be interesting if India do not loose more then 1 wicket in the 1st session with Kohli settled at the crease. That will mean India might look to build the lead in the 2nd session as Kohli is naturally aggressive player and there is lot of quality in Rohit and Rahane. Will SAF look to pull down the shutters and wait for the draw? All in all a fascinating days play awaits us.

  • ESPN on December 30, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    as a South African I was intigued by this match. We secured the match before pushing to put ourselves in a position were we dictate the match. Thats test cricket, stratergy and just swing at everything. As India, look this team can go far if supported properly. Shami can be the answer overseas, Jadeja Ashwin in tandem can cause problems, the top 4 is solid. pick one team consistently and build around it. Do not fear selecting 5 specialist batsman, 5 bowlers and 1 wicket keeer batsman. The confidence you give a young squad translates into how they play. As for SA, ridiculous to say we crap when we lost only 3 tests since 2009 and havent lost a series. Wasnt Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag and co all playing when we became number 1, when we beat India in India? Werent Hussy, Ponting and co still playing when we beat Aus in Aus? Was Eng not number 1 when we beat them in Eng?

  • James on December 30, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    We have an interesting scenario now- there is no 'exceptional' team in the world right now, all are flawed to varying degrees. SA were ahead of the pack for a short while, but now they are returning to the pack. Kallis is retiring, Steyn is tapering off, and their efforts to find a spinner remains still born. Australia and Pakistan may have the bowling covered but have huge gaps in batting. England now has gaps in both bowling and batting. India continues to be a mediocre bowling side. Sri Lankan bowling cupboard is bare and their batting too is on the decline and largely works only on the subcontinent. WI's batting is still suspect and NZ is too dependent on a few players. Hence, matches in the next few years will be interesting- a few players and a few sessions should swing games. As far as this match is concerned, both teams show a lack of intent- a draw will be a fair result.

  • Dummy on December 30, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    India has not able to produce wicket taking bowlers as yet since a longtime now & that itself has been the reason of their loss in many games in the recent this test also there were not able to cleanup the tail as quickly as south africa did in their innings