TELFORD VICE, Mohali
“BEWARE of what you what you wish for in youth,” the German philosopher Goethe wrote, “because you will get it in middle life.” So it proved in Mohali on Thursday when India were given the raging turner they wanted for the first test against SA.
The home side felt the sting of this truth long before the match could be considered middle-aged when they were dismissed for 201 less than an hour after tea. But there was more where that came from and SA, asked to face 20 overs, limped to the close on 28/2.
This match will not see old age. In fact, by the time South Africans eat their breakfast on Friday, matters could have taken a great leap forward. Parity will be the visitors’ immediate goal.
Helpfully, then, SA were given pointers by India’s batting coach, Sanjay Bangar on how to deal with this popadom of a pitch: “Don’t be too concerned about the close fielders, use your feet to smother the spin, and use the depth of the crease to score on both sides of the wicket.”
Simple. Now get on with it.
Of the 12 wickets that fell, 10 were snapped up by spinners. Four of them belonged to Dean Elgar, who at this rate could develop into a part-time opening batsman.
Having emerged from the dressingroom that had all but demanded this popadom of a pitch, Bangar couldn’t very well not defend it.
“It’s a very challenging wicket,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s a good wicket or a bad wicket, but 201 on that wicket is a lot more than it looks on the scoreboard.
“Bowlers have to get a chance. The bowlers do have the upper hand in the match and the batsmen have to cope with that.”
Elgar didn’t have to tread carefully – at least not until he takes guard again on Friday having reached 13 off 59 balls. What did he think?
“Honestly? I don’t think it’s a very good cricket wicket; I think it’s a result wicket, which is expected when you come here.
“We sort of expected it to play like that, but we didn’t expect it to crumble as much as what it has already.
“It was hard graft; it was right up there with the hardest day of test cricket I’ve had.
“And it’s going to be hard graft from here.”
A pitch at least as famous in India as a Bollywood star looked drably middle-aged on Thursday morning, but Shikhar Dhawan’s thickly edged drive to first slip off Vernon Philander with the 10th ball of the match suggested India team director Ravi Shastri might see fit to yell at another groundsman.
However, Hashim Amla had Simon Harmer bowling inside the first hour and in the 22nd over Elgar was handed the ball.
Amla kept Kagiso Rabada in the mix in the five overs that remained until lunch, and Dale Steyn and Philander bowled the first seven overs of the second session.
Then it was back to Harmer before – after one more from Philander – Elgar and Harmer bowled in tandem for another seven overs. And only then, in the second hour after lunch, did Imran Tahir get a bowl. Mind you, by then Elgar has taken 3/16 off five overs.
He claimed his four wickets across 32 deliveries and was on a hattrick. So was Tahir. Expect more of that on Friday.