NAGPUR: Anil Kumble was having a chat with Indian players on the ground before South Africa resumed their struggle at VCA Stadium on Friday. Nothing unusual about it, as former players doing TV commentary sometimes do that. The leg-spin legend is mentioned because his name surfaced at the end of the day’s play in a different context that puts in perspective proceedings of the ongoing series.
Having battled in vain for over three hours and recorded the longest innings of the series in terms of balls faced (167), Hashim Amla was downcast after the defeat that ended South Africa’s nine-year unbeaten away run and handed India the Gandhi-Mandela Trophy. He managed a sad smile after being reminded of his exploits with the bat on previous trips. The man who got many of those runs against two of the world’s
leading spinners, felt this experience is testing him like none before.
“In 2008 and 2010, a lot of it was about facing Anil or Harbhajan Singh. If I had to face them on such kind of wickets, I wouldn’t have got any runs. So I put it (lack of runs) down more to the pitches. I remember facing Anil in Chennai and other places. Facing him here would have been a nightmare. The wickets played their part in making it difficult for all the batters.”
Amla didn’t need coaxing to share his thoughts on what dominated talks more than Ravicnahdran Ashwin’s magnificent performance. For a period, visitors succeeded in preventing the ceaseless fall of wickets when Amla and Faf du Plessis put together the biggest and longest partnership (72, 46.2 overs) of the match. It was predominantly defence, as the skipper offered a classical prod with bat and pad together, while Du Plessis chose to stay beside the line of the ball to keep out those coming in. The pad was thrust forward with good effect, but runs came in a trickle and batting was generally about survival.
It was a matter of time before the resistance ended. “We could have still ended up all out for 70 or 100. There was so much playing and missing. It’s easy to say we could have batted that way in the first innings, but the circumstances were different. From Day 1 to Day 3, it got progressively worse. These three days were the toughest of my career. The surface was the toughest I’ve seen,” Amla said.
He reserved comment on whether this was good advert for Test cricket though.