Shardul Thakur and Nathu Singh showed their potential against an international side in the opening session of the second day of the two-day warm-up game against South Africa at the Brabourne Stadium. Definitely the lone national selector, Saba Karim, who saw all the action from the second floor CCI president’s box, will have plenty to share about the two young seamers with his colleagues. Thakur can surely be considered as a replacement, should there be an exigency caused by an injury to any of the present set of pace men in the national squad. The two day match ended in a draw, with South Africa taking a six-run lead and the home team reaching 92 without the loss of any wickets.
The absence of a Ranji Trophy tie for Mumbai gave the pocket sized Thakur an opportunity to show his mettle and he largely succeeded capturing four wickets with the new ball — two in the last session on Friday and two in his opening burst on Saturday. Nathu Singh took time to get his rhythm and accuracy and there were odd instances when he gave glimpses of possessing special deliveries to rattle batsmen of the highest level. He dismissed a well-settled left-handed opener Dean Elgar with a genuine wicket-taking delivery.
After an excellent demonstration of fast and seam bowling by the Thakur-Nathu Singh combination that reduced South Africa to 57 for five by the 16th over, AB de Villiers (112, 208m, 131b, 18 x 4s) took centre stage and stamped his authority with his fourth century in the ongoing tour; he had scored centuries in the One-Day Internationals played in Kanpur, Chennai and Mumbai.
The attacking right hander was involved in two recovery partnerships with Temba Bavuma (54 for the sixth wicket) and with Dane Vilas (115 for the seventh wicket). De Villiers’ knock, which began with a boundary-productive cut shot and an on-drive to midwicket of Thakur and ended after he punched two off driven shots of unorthodox left arm spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, kept the scoreboard ticking and calmed nerves in the dressing room. Twice Nathu Singh forced the South African run-machine to pull out his bottom hand at nick of time.
From the home team’s point of view the focus was on Thakur and Nathu Singh. The Mumbai speedster, who recently crossed 100 first-class wickets, surprised Faf du Plessis with a leg stump yorker-length delivery and trapped him leg before. Thereafter he sent back the rival captain Hashim Amla with an out-swinger that took the edge of the bat and landed into the hands of Karun Nair in the first slip.
Perhaps Thakur and Nathu Singh would have got more wickets had skipper Cheteshwara Pujara been more dynamic with his field placing. He had a point, cover, mid-off and just two slips, when the situation was ideal for three slips and two gullies. Hardik Pandya chipped in with the wicket of Bavuma, with Unmukt Chand showing a safe pair of hands.
If the bowlers, especially the seamers were still hopeful on the second day afternoon, it was because of the wonderful work done by the CCI ground staff, headed by Prakash Adhav. Leg spinner Karn Sharma did not make an impact, but off spinner Jayant Yadav picked up two wickets, including that of de Villiers while chinaman practitioner Kuldeep Yadav polished the tail.
Amla chose four spinners to bowl 30 overs in the second innings and ordered for nets at the conclusion of the match for a workout to reassure himself of his batting technique. “I have seen him get out early in the innings and hence I attacked him with out-swing. This has been my best bowling performance in the season. There was moisture underneath and I exploited it,’’ Thakur said.
The South African coach Russell Domingo said that there was nothing to worry about leg spinner Imran Tahir, who appeared to have hurt his non-bowling hand when Rahul hit a firm shot in the second innings.
Brief scores: BPXI296 (Rahul 72, Steyn 3-46) and 92 for 0 (Pujara 49 not out, Rahul 43 not out) drew withSouth Africa302 (de Villiers 112, Thakur 4-70).