Ravichandran Ashwin bowled South African tail-ender Morne Morkel through the ‘gate’ and gave finality to the Test match and the Paytm Freedom Series, at the VCA Stadium, here on Friday. Morkel appeared quite embarrassed in the manner of his dismissal as he left the ground with his team shot out for 185 in the fourth innings. India’s champion off-break bowler completed a dozen wickets in the match to take his tally to a whopping 24 from five innings in the series.
As the wrecker-in-chief of South Africa had predicted after the second day’s play, the under-prepared wicket allowed leeway for the batsmen with will and skill to spend time in the middle. Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis showed excellent temperament to tackle the threats posed by Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra and also fast bowler Ishant Sharma. And for the first time in three days it seemed there were no demons in the pitch. However, once the South African skipper left the crease after his three-and-a-half hour show of defiance, his team-mates followed him at regular intervals unable to withstand the pressure from Ashwin’s terrific spell with the second new ball.
In a sense it was a feeling déjà vu for Ashwin, who has now taken 119 of his 169 Test wickets on Indian soil. This was his 14th five wicket haul.
De Villiers out of touch
The expected South African slump did not happen as Virat Kohli may have expected when de Villiers departed at 58. The master batsman’s dismissal was a big breakthrough after Elgar and Amla resumed the fourth innings of the match at 32 for 2. A long period of break from the rain-affected match at Bangalore has not helped the batsmen and de Villiers, for once, seemed to be out of touch.
The match could have been wrapped up much earlier had Wriddhiman Saha and Ajinkya Rahane pouched their chances. Faf du Plessis, beaten by pace, edged Sharma (79/4) between the keeper and slip and thereafter Amla (83/4) failed to keep down Mishra. The two missed opportunities helped the pair forge a stable fifth-wicket partnership.
Ashwin and Jadeja became less effective with the old ball, but the Indian fielding stood up to the task in the 30-yard circle. Initially hemmed in by a slip, gully, silly point and the leg trap, du Plessis and Amla played confidently enough to disperse the men around the bat.
The Amla-du Plessis partnership turned out to be the longest of the innings in terms of time and overs bowled (173 minutes and 281 balls), and once Mishra made the breach closing the 70th over with wicket of Amla, it was a question of how quickly the visitors' innings would fold up. Jadeja took the new ball, but it was Ashwin who struck immediately removing Jean-Paul Duminy with a delivery to which the left-hander decided not to offer his bat in defence or attack. The ball hit his front foot, which was in line with the off stump.
Soon Ashwin completed a 4.5-1-16-4 spell with the new ball to finish with match figures of 12 for 98. Mishra deserves much credit too as he scalped Amla and du Plessis in quick succession. The result gave Kohli his first victory in a home series.
With the Test match ending with almost an hour to spare on the third day, questions have been asked if it’s right to play matches on designer pitches that make life miserable for the batsmen. Kohli said it’s better to play on resulted-oriented pitches, while Amla said he has never played on such tracks.
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