TELFORD VICE, Delhi
OSCAR? Gone. Heyneke? Gone. SA’s test series in India? Just arrived, and that as late as the first day of the fourth test at the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi on Thursday.
After the madness of Mohali and the nastiness of Nagpur, which harboured pitches better suited to survival training in the event of hand grenade attacks than batting, Delhi delivered a surface worthy of a test.
Sort of: slow with variable bounce is hardly ideal. But India’s 231/7, reached in the 84 overs bowled before the sun gave up trying to penetrate the fetid soup of pollution where the air should be that the locals prefer to pretend is “haze”, represents the fewest number of wickets to have fallen in a day in the series.
Four of them went to Dane Piedt, who is playing his first test since he took match figures of 8/152 in Harare last August. A month after that happy day, a shoulder injury almost ended his career.
But, unlike Oscar Pistorius, who is set to serve a lengthy jail term for murder, and Heyneke Meyer, who on Thursday quit as Springbok coach, Piedt is back where he belongs.
“I can say thank you to (Cobras physiotherapist) Shane Jabaar and (surgeon) Joe de Beer,” Piedt said. “It was really tough when I walked into Joe de Beer’s office and he told me, ‘It either goes your way, or it goes the way that you won’t be able to bowl anymore’.
“That hit me hard. I never told anyone about it. Guys came into the SA team and they did quite well, so I knew it was going to be a long road for me to come back and try to do what I did in Zimbabwe.
“It was really tough on me emotionally and physically, and just to get back and to take four wickets is a dream come true again.
“I’m not going to turn down an option to bowl because I love bowling. I was out for eight months and I’ll take this opportunity to bowl as much as I can because there’s wickets up for grabs.
“The more I compete with the batsmen the more overs I get to bowl, which will mean me taking more wickets for the team.
“It’s not a right to play for your country – it’s an invitation. I’m taking up that invitation. I’m not looking at (the series scoreline of) 2-0 (to India); I’m trying to make it 2-1.”
What was it like trying to do so against some of the best players of spin?
“We have a guy called AB de Villiers in our team and I regard him as the best player of spin in the world. Going up against him in every net session really tests my skill and it only makes me a better bowler.”
Bless him. What a joy to hear such positive fighting talk after weeks of listening to bumptious noise in defence of shameful pitches.
And what a pleasure to see a batsman given the opportunity to use his will and his wits to venture within 11 runs of scoring what would be the first century of the series.
Ajinkya Rahane, who gutsed it out for more than three-and-a-half hours on Thursday, was that batsmen. He deserves a hundred, even though Piedt had him dropped at slip by Hashim Amla on 78.
In test cricket – proper test cricket, not contrived nonsense – these things happen.