India vs. SA: Who Earns More From the Draw?
By Gerald Imray | AP | Published: 25th December 2013 07:57 AM |
South Africa put up one of the boldest fightbacks in test cricket and then shied away from a chance at history at the end. India enjoyed supremacy over the top team in the world for four out of five days and still nearly fell to a hurtful defeat.
Who takes more from the complicated first-test draw at the Wanderers? Both teams say they do, because they didn't lose.
The top-ranked South Africans and No. 2-ranked Indians both claimed the advantage ahead of the second and final match in Durban starting on Thursday.
South Africa's unbeaten run through 13 series is still on the line against an Indian team that removed doubts about its ability on fast wickets by dominating the Proteas for much of the opening test on a green Johannesburg track.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith said his team showed "the mental strength and ability to find a way to get something out of this test match. I think we have done extremely well."
Yet, India batsman Virat Kohli maintained the tourists were the ones who showed "character."
"Give us any situation and we will look for a way to come out of it," he said.
Both teams also left the Wanderers relieved. They displayed frailty in places.
South Africa's fast bowlers wilted during Cheteshwar Pujara's 153 in the second innings and his double-century partnership with Kohli. South Africa then turned down a fairly gettable 16 from 18 balls at the climax of the test that would have delivered a world-record win.
India couldn't convert a massive 458-run lead in the final innings into victory with over a day to bowl out the South Africans, who were also a man down because of tailender Morne Morkel's ankle injury. A shaky India was ultimately grateful to three late wickets and a miserly last couple of overs to save it from an embarrassing and famous loss.
Escaping defeat and the weaknesses of the opposition are the memories that stick most for both camps as they head to the steamy east coast city for the decisive game with just a three-day break.
The Indians, and the majority of South Africa's cricket news coverage and social media commentary, have focused on the South Africans' decision to defend at the end and play for a draw.
"I'd rather go down going for a win than draw!!" former South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs wrote on Twitter, encapsulating the feelings of many commentators.
That kind of reaction has clearly hurt the home team.
"Dale (Steyn) was really upset, he struggled to handle it," De Villiers said on Tuesday in Durban. On Sunday, skipper Smith also snapped at reporters questioning the tactics.
Yet, there is an argument to say South Africa made the right decision by not giving up victory and rather making sure it didn't lose. Also, Smith had a swipe at the Indians' approach at the end, when they bowled short and wide to prevent runs rather than trying to remove the tailenders for victory.
Through their cautious late actions neither team played for entertainment or the reputation of cricket and both were heartily relieved that they didn't lose. And who can blame them?
Now to Durban, where the winner will take all.
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