India (280 and 421) drew with South Africa (244 and 450-7)
As an epic match reached its conclusion, the decision to award Virat Kohli the Man of the match award seemed a little surprising to a certain part of the audience as they felt Faf du Plessis was a better contender for that award. The truth, however, is that none of them was the highest impact player of the match. No, it was not even AB de Villiers or Cheteshwar Pujara. The highest impact player of the match was actually Vernon Philander and it is a pity that his performances were not even a part of the equation for the best player award. Philander picked up 7 wickets in the match, including the 4 wicket haul in the first innings which induced a mini-collapse on the 2nd day after India were well set at 255-5 at the end of day 1. Philander’s biggest contribution in the match though came during South Africa’s 1st innings after they had initially collapsed to 146-6, still trailing India by 134 runs. Philander played a crucial counter-attacking knock of 59 runs which was also the highest
One of the most important things to remember while watching Test match cricket is that a draw is actually a result in this format of the game. Our affinity towards one-day and T20 cricket have led us to believe in super-human targets being achieved in infinitesimal time. So, when South Africa were batting at 442-7 with 16 more runs to win from 18 balls, we were judging them by the standards prevalent in the limited overs format and their inability to achieve the target after coming so close came across as a loss to most of the supporters on the ground. It was sickening to see the crowd boo some of the players on the field after they played out what was undoubtedly a modern epic. South Africa had their reasons to defend at the end and they were well justified, they were 7 down and with an injured Morne Morkel (who wouldn’t be able to run) and Imran Tahir to come, it was sensible on Philander’s part to eke out the draw after du Plessis and de Villiers played monumental innings, primarily to save South Africa from an imminent defeat, Philander just made sure their efforts for over 6 hours on a 5th day track was well rewarded at the end and that the series was still open for a possible win. A loss for either side would have meant neither of them emerging as the winner of this ridiculously scheduled 2 match Test series. The 2nd Test match at Durban now assumes even more of an importance and provides a golden chance for the players to leave a lasting legacy for themselves.
This is the Impact summary for the game – it shows what each player registered on an Impact meter. In a match context, these numbers are between a scale of 0 to 5 (so, anything more than 5 is restricted to 5 to avoid career skews).
Some interesting takeouts:
Both AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis played two of the greatest innings in recent Test history and if not for some nervy moments in the end could have seen their performances translate into a record chase in the history of Test cricket. Both de Villiers and du Plessis came under considerable amount of pressure after South Africa were reduced to 197-4 in their 2nd innings but they bid their time and almost pulled South Africa to an improbable victory. Faf du Plessis’ knock in the second innings was actually the highest impact batting performance of the match (marginally better than Kohli’s 119) and it registered such a high impact primarily because it came in a match-saving cause (Significant Innings Bonus) under a high pressure situation (high
Virat Kohli, was by far the highest impact player for India and his masterful knock of 119 in the first innings was the 2nd-highest
Cheteshwar Pujara, emerged as the second-highest impact batsman for India for his knocks of 25 and 153 in the first and second innings respectively. His century in the 2nd innings, came under a pressure situation (
Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami all picked up 5 wickets apiece in the match but it was Shami who had the highest
The absence of Morne Morkel in the 2nd innings also came as a big blow to the Proteas especially considering the fact that he was their highest impact bowler in the 1st innings. Along with his 3 wickets in the 1st innings, Morkel had an enormous
India’s biggest worry at the end of the 1st Test match should be the performance of their lead spinner Ravichandran Ashwin who looked clueless for major part of the match. He failed to take even a single wicket and his failure is even more highlighted in the fact that South Africa batted out 136 overs on the 4th and 5th day of a Test match. Ravindra Jadeja could be a possible replacement for him heading into the 2nd Test match and the last time a Test match was played at Durban, it was Rangana Herath (similar bowling style) who spun Sri Lanka to victory with match figures of 9-128, Jadeja’s nagging accuracy within the line of the stumps and his occasional turners may just be the right recipe for the South Africans. Ashwin on the other hand has consistently failed in overseas conditions and this was only the 8th time in Indian Test history that a spinner had failed to pick up even a single wicket and 2 of these instances now involve Ashwin in it. Unsurprisingly, Ravichandran Ashwin was the lowest impact player of the match.