South Africa used their first innings opportunity to showcase its entire bowling line-up, in the Test match functional mode, on the first day of the two-day warm up game against the Board President’s XI at the Brabourne Stadium on Friday. The South Africans restricted the home team for 296, and faced nine overs losing two wickets to Board President’s XI pacer Shardul Thakur for 46 runs.
It was a bright sunny day that portrayed the contrast between the South African team in snow-white apparel and the home team batsmen in off-white flannels and shirt vividly but, also came into sharp focus was the methodical and steady way the fast and seam bowlers in the form of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada worked out their resources during their opening bursts. The off-spinners Simon Harmer and Dane Piedt and wrist spinner Imran Tahir, too got their chances.
The firm surface revealed consistent bounce and also afforded extra bounce when the beanpole tall Morkel flicked his wrist in the last moment and pitched short. Determined not to be wayward, the visitor’s pacers did not give leeway for any of the Indian batsmen to get into top gear, except when Pandya punished the off spinners hitting three sixes.
At the outset , Steyn offered a juicy over-pitched ball for Unmukt Chand to hit a thundering straight drive for the first genuine boundary short, but the veteran fast bowler with 403 Test scalps, outwitted the right hander, causing the ball to drift away and force an edge. Not really in great nick on under-prepared pitches at Rajkot in three Ranji Trophy matches, Cheteshwat Pujara perished while playing beside the line and offering a catch to gully and the home team was on the backfoot straightaway.
Soon Steyn quickly found a weakness in Shreyas Iyer’s initial backplay and made him nick to wicketkeeper Dane Vilas. Steyn finished his first spell at 5-1-13-2 and Philander, who had accounted for Pujara, at 5-1-22-1. Morkel, who bowled straight and fast, was not hit beyond the square and he finished at 5-5-0-0. Kagiso Rabada worked hard and generated speed.
While his partners departed from the scene of action, Karnataka opener K. L. Rahul struggled right through his near three and quarter hour of occupation of the crease, but in spite of being beaten on a number of occasions, the India right hander conspicuous by his upright stance, did not waver in his temperament and competed against the pace and spin attack of the visitor. Karun Nair turned out to be an ideal foil as the two put on 105 run partnership for the fourth wicket before Nair edged to the wicketkeeper.
Left hand batsman, Stiaan van Zyl, filled in his role as relief seamer and since the two sides were playing with the objective of giving everyone an opportunity, skipper Hashim Amla brought in Tahir before the tea break. South Africa bowled 27 before lunch and 29 in the second session, and in this time the most impressive and formidable was Steyn and yet one wondered if he was holding something back. In the 63rd over, he struck removing Naman Ojha with a conventional outswinger which the right hander nibbled and offered Amla a dolly catch at slip.
Eight years of IPL and 107 wickets has made Steyn a clever operator on slow Indian wickets, but he would have liked the Brabourne strip that did offer some help. He has taken 26 wickets at 20.23 in five Test matches on two tours to India (2007-08 and 2009-10). He’s 32, but with the underlying principle of bowling wicket to wicket and with subtle variations, he will be South Africa’s spearhead in the four Test series.
The urgency to hasten through the overs to complete 90 in the day resulted in the spinners being given the old ball and Baroda’s Pandya demonstrated his fearless approach, hitting Piedt for two on side sixes. A little over half an hour into the first session of the day things looked bleak at 27 for 3, but by close the fierce determination of Rahul (292m, 132b, 13 x 4s), aggression by Nair (108m 70b, 9 x 4s), Ojha (110m, 80b,17 x 4s, 1 x6) and Pandya (77m, 55b, 6 x 4s, 3 x 6s) enabled the home team to touch a score four runs short of 300.
Naman Ojha: Nathu Singh was quick, but a little wayward
The 20-year-old Nathu Singh was not given the new ball to start the proceedings against South Africa as skipper Cheteshwar Pujara tossed the ball to Mumbai seamer Shardul Thakur.
Once the home team was bowled out for 296, the visitor had to face nine overs. The Team Rajasthan seamer, bowled three overs and twice made left hander Stiaan van Zyl hasten his front foot defensive shot.
“He bowled quick, but was a bit wayward,” said wicketkeeper Naman Ojha. He conceded a boundary each either side of the wicket and sent down two no balls.
Board President’s XI 296 (K. L. Rahul 72, Karun Nair 44, Naman Ojha 52, Hardik Pandya 47; Dale Steyn 3 for 46, Vernon Philander 2 for 37, Simon Harmer 3 for 41) lead South Africa 46 for 2 (Stiaan van Zyl 18, Dean Elgar 18 batting; Shardul Thakur 2 for 28) by 250 runs.