Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave India’s campaign in South Africa a shot in the arm with a stunning opening spell on the opening day of the first Test at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday (January 5).
With history weighing them down, India were starting the three-Test series on the back foot, but three outstanding overs from the paceman saw India shake off early jitters and South Africa slip to 12 for 3 inside the first five overs of the Test.
Notwithstanding the dire situation, AB de Villiers counter-attacked with a blistering 59 not out and Faf du Plessis came up with a scratchy 37 not out to see South Africa to 107 for 3 at lunch after winning the toss and electing to bat first.Eventually, du Plessis grew in confidence and started to get his feet behind the line of the ball, but he was no de Villiers.
Coming out to bat with Dean Elgar (0) and Aiden Markram (5) back in the hut, de Villiers wasn’t tentative in the least. Having dodged enough of Bhuvneshwar in the Indian Premier League, the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman put the dead-bat and the leave to good use when the line was tight. When Bhuvneshwar did however waver, he was on to it in a flash.
In fact, Bhuvneshwar’s fifth over went for 17 runs with de Villiers creaming four boundaries. And yet, Bhuvneshwar’s first spell read: 7-2-29-3.
Until Bhuvneshwar got rid of Elgar off the third delivery of his opening over, however, talks revolved around India’s selection. Ajinkya Rahane was left out in favour of Rohit Sharma, and Jasprit Bumrah earned his debut cap. Those were among the more significant talking points from the final XI for the first Test, but they all took the backseat once Bhuvneshwar got Elgar to play at and nick an away-swinger to Wriddhiman Saha, the wicketkeeper.
South Africa had lost a wicket without runs on board, and it was only about to get worse. Markram, playing for the out-swinger, fell prey to the set up as he failed to offer a shot to an in-swinger which trapped him in front of the stumps.
The very next over, it was Amla who pushed at an away-going length ball and nicked it to Saha. South Africa were reduced to praying for mercy.
Just when talks of an early end to the innings were beginning to take shape, de Villiers and du Plessis decided to resist with some of South Africa’s fighting spirit. While du Plessis adopted a more classical approach, de Villiers stuck to his intuitive style of play and came away looking typically brilliant.
The fourth-wicket duo, which added an unbeaten 95 runs, was helped along the way as the pitch mellowed down and Bhuvneshwar came off the attack. Mohammed Shami and Bumrah were tight but not probing, and Hardik Pandya bowled just the one over before lunch.