We’re a day late with this and have little to add, but since when has turning up late and contributing little stopped us?
Just over a year ago, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers combined to play out an unlikely draw against Australia. Du Plessis made 110 not out over about seven-and-a-half hours. De Villiers hit a chronically shotless 33 off 220 balls. This weekend, they did something similar against India, although de Villiers did actually remember to hit the ball this time.
South Africa made 450-7 – eight runs short of victory – with 134 from du Plessis (run out!) and 103 from de Villiers. Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn batted out the draw. They were actually slightly further off victory than appears because Steyn hit the final ball of the match for six.
Up until that last day, India had looked magic.Virat Kohli made light of alien conditions (alien as in ‘unfamiliar’ – there was oxygen and what have you) in the first innings and was then almost as good in the second innings, but found himself outshone by Che Pujara who is becoming a somewhat wearying number three for opposition teams what with his unquashable love of scoring runs and all. Between times, the Indian seamers – including a newly svelte Zaheer Khan, who somewhat inexplicably chose France as the place where he would eat less bread – did a fine job, ensuring an Indian first innings lead.
But this is what South Africa do. They’re feisty sods and these kinds of draws can be dispiriting and physically wearing for the dominant team. Last year, South Africa’s stunning dead-battery knocked Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus out of the following Test match, allowing them to win the series. This time around, there’s (infuriatingly) only one Test to go, so no-one will be rested from the Indian bowling attack. Some of them might be a little less zingy, even if they’re not flabbing in to bowl these days.