An Interloper’s Reading of Days 3-to-5 at Visakhapatnam

Dannie Byrne

DAY THREE: “Magnificent centuries from Elgar and de Kock bring the South Africans right back into this match; Day 3 at Visakhapatnam”

Maybe it was due to it being a Friday, but my driver’s punctuality slipped from Indian time to something more akin to what you often experience in the Arabian world. In the Arabic language to ask the time literally translates as “What hour is it?” There is really no need to bother with inconsequential minor details such as minutes. I once waited two weeks for a bus in Sudan. Each morning I went to the scheduled point of departure and asked in reasonably good Arabic, “When is the bus leaving?” To which the answer was always “bukra” ( tomorrow ). In order to try to extract a little more information I’d follow up with, “What time?” To which the answer was invariably “Insha’allah.” One of the difficulties of travelling as an atheist is that it is difficult to really plan anything when it’s left to god to decide what time you can board the bus.

Things were quite a lot better in Visakhapatnam and although the driver arrived 20 minutes later than his usual time we still made it to the ground with 15 minutes to spare despite encountering more traffic problems than on either of the previous two mornings. I managed to smuggle in two bottles of water today and of course the large containers with filtered water were already set up and fully functioning. Clearly I’d found the right official to complain to yesterday. The temperature was again unbearably hot and humid and instead of going to the upper level to meet Mr. I.V. Rao I elected to stay downstairs and sit directly under one of the overhead fans.

Short and shorter resumed batting for South Africa in the form of Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma while Ishant Sharma was given a bowl from the Vizzy ( Pavilion ) End. The second delivery was edged into the large gap between the two slips exactly where second slip should have been standing at a comfortable catching height. Ashwin bowled from the other end and Elgar hit him over the in-field for a boundary to bring up the South Africa 50. Bavuma was plumb lbw to Ishant, hit on the back leg by a delivery that stayed low ( 63 – 4 ). Shami replaced Ishant after a four over spell and du Plessis hit Ashwin for a straight six. I was distracted by a raptor flying overhead that I was unable to identify without binoculars. Jadeja replaced Shami and the raptor disappeared. 53 runs were added in the first hour for the loss of one wicket from 15 overs.

Elgar completed an excellent half century from 112 balls and the 50 partnership came up in the same over having required 83 deliveries. Vihari was given an over to allow Jadeja to switch ends and Elgar top edged an attempted sweep off the left arm spinner that ended up going for six over fine leg. Elgar followed up with a straight six of the last ball of the over which conceded 16 runs. Ishant returned at the Vizzy End and du Plessis crisply drove his second ball wide of the fielder at mid-on. Elgar was dropped on 74 by Saha, a sharp chance low to his left hand off Jadeja’s next over. After having a quick drink I noticed the label on the Bisleri water bottle I smuggled into the ground said “best used within six months of the date of manufacture” and I’m wondering what they could have done to make a totally sealed container of water potentially go off during that period of time.

Ishant returned to the attack and a delivery to Elgar stayed very low. Jadeja bowled the next over and one particular ball leapt up dramatically off a good length and nearly hit du Plessis full in the face. Lunch was taken with the score 153 – 4 from 50 overs with everyone wondering how the pitch might play in the afternoon. 114 runs had been added in the morning session for the loss of one wicket from 30 overs with the current unbroken partnership already worth 90 runs. Clouds had started to build up during the interval and although rain didn’t look likely in the immediate future the temperature had noticeably dropped by a few degrees. Shami and Ashwin were the first bowlers used after lunch and the South African captain completed his half century from 91 balls. A straight drive to the boundary from Elgar brought up the 100 partnership from 167 deliveries. Elgar and du Plessis continued to look solid in defending their wickets while trying to take every opportunity to score whenever a poor delivery came their way.

Another straight drive to the fence from Elgar off Shami took his score to 92. The partnership finally ended on 115 when du Plessis tamely turned a delivery from Ashwin to the leg side and straight into the hands of Pujara at leg gully ( 178 – 5 ). Elgar completed a brilliant century in the circumstances when he hit Ashwin over mid-wicket for another six. His effort had taken 175 balls and had included 4 sixes and 11 fours. It was his 12th Test century, his second in Asia and his first in India. Vihari replaced Jadeja at the Pavilion End and de Kock was dropped on 7 at silly mid-off by Rohit Sharma. Another mistimed shot from de Kock landed just short of the fielder diving forward at mid-wicket when he was on 8.

De Kock soon made the most of his good fortune hitting Jadeja over cow corner for six and cutting the next delivery to the third man boundary. De Kock went after all three spinners and 26 runs were conceded from 3 overs. Kohli was at a loss as what to do. His field placements were terrible and there did not appear to be any plans regarding how to bowl to specific batsmen. Ishant Sharma was recalled and the 50 partnership was completed from 73 balls. The floodlights were switched on at 1.50 pm and Rohit Sharma was brought on to bowl a few dibbly dobblies before the new ball was available four overs later. Vihari came on again and Elgar hit a beautiful cover drive to take his score to 126. The new ball was taken as soon as it was available by Ashwin and Jadeja with the score 261 – 5.

De Kock brought up his half century from 79 balls. He took 10 runs off an over from Ashwin and the follow-on target was getting closer and closer very quickly. Jadeja managed to injure his right hand running into a fence trying to save the ball from crossing the rope and he left the field for treatment. Vihari bowled in his place and 9 runs came off the over. Jadeja surprisingly returned after only one over and replaced Ashwin at the Pavilion End. Kohli hadn’t a clue what he was trying to achieve and I was getting dizzy trying to work it out. At Tea the score was 292 – 5 from 87 overs. In a magnificent session of Test match cricket for South Africa 139 runs had been scored for the loss of one wicket from 37 overs.

The interval disappeared in a blur of bodies everywhere as Sudhir turned up for a chat and his army of followers jostled for position to take photographs and shake hands. I managed to escape after 10 minutes to get some more water and a plate of samosas. Immediately after the interval a brutal rising delivery from Ishant was fended off by Elgar straight to where second slip should have been. The resulting boundary took the South African score to 303 – 5 and the follow on was saved. If I was the bowler I would have been furious as there were wasted fielders at deep backward point and deep square leg who should have been standing in the slips. Elgar reached 150 from a dreadful Jadeja over that conceded 12 runs. Elgar and de Kock have effectively turned this game on its head and if the Indians are not careful they could end up conceding a first innings lead.

Shami replaced Ishant after a three over spell and was asked to bowl with the same negative field settings. An edge from de Kock off Jadeja fell just short of Rahane at slip off an attempted drive which suggested the fielder should be at least another step further forward. The 150 partnership came up from 234 balls and the South Africans had now scored 300 runs in the day for the loss of only 2 wickets and there were still 20 overs remaining to be bowled before stumps. It was a magnificent effort having started the day on 39 – 3. Elgar was finally out attempting a slog/sweep and getting a top edge that Pujara was able to catch running in from deep mid-wicket ( 342 – 6 ). He’d scored 160 from 287 balls in 391 minutes and given that it was also Jadeja’s 200th Test wicket the crowd enthusiastically applauded both achievements at the same time.

Muthusamy was the next batsman to the crease with seven first class centuries to his name and an average of 33.41. He was dropped at slip when on 4 by Rahane off Ashwin’s bowling diving to his left and unable to hold on to the ball. De Kock completed his fifth Test century and his first in Asia with a six over long-off from a delivery from Ashwin. His effort had required 149 balls and included 2 sixes and 15 fours. Shami came on at the Pavilion End allowing Ashwin to switch. Shami had a big lbw shout against Muthusamy that was turned down by Chris Gaffaney and the Decision Review System was used for only the second time in the match. The original decision was upheld as the ball was predicted to be missing leg stump. Ashwin then bowled de Kock for 111 after setting him up brilliantly. The first two balls of the over pitched in line with the stumps and de Kock watched as they spun away harmlessly wide of the off stump. The third delivery went straight on and knocked over the middle peg. ( 370 – 7 ).

Ishant Sharma was the next bowler to injure himself in the field when he fell awkwardly trying to stop the ball at cover point. He left the field immediately. Philander was the next victim for Ashwin. He was also clean bowled but this time by a delivery that spun back so far it had the batsman staring at the ground in awe before he finally trudged off back towards the Pavilion ( 376 – 8 ). Ashwin had 5 wickets in an innings once more for the 27th time in Tests and figures of 5 – 125. A delivery to Maharaj went so low from Ashwin that Saha was unable to stop it and another four byes were added to the total. The close of play came at 5 pm with the score 385 – 8 from 118 overs and the Indian overall lead reduced to 117. It was getting dark as we drove back to the centre of town and I couldn’t believe it when I saw a sign for a shop advertising electrical repairs and half the light bulbs creating the display sign were not working.

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DAY FOUR: “India set South Africa 395 to win and the visitors need to bat all day tomorrow to save the Test

The owner of the Taxi Company, Mr Vasu himself, turned up this morning to do the driving duties explaining that young Raju had returned to his family on their small plot of land about 40 Km away for the weekend. I think the real reason he came along was to try to get the daily rate increased by making up all sorts of stories about extra traffic on the road for the Durga Puja festival. It wasn’t going to work on me and he appeared to acknowledge that fairly quickly. He told me that after the 10 days celebrating Durga Puja it will then be time for the next festival – Diwali. Following that there are three other small festivals before the end of the year and then there is another celebration at some point in January that also lasts for about a week. As far as I am concerned there is an implied assumption that each festival provides a certain number of days where public employees at least are afforded additional holidays. There is still a generous allowance for certain Muslim and Christian celebrations in Modi’s India and given the number of gods worshipped by the Hindus, it’s a small wonder that any work gets done at all.

Maybe I should look into religious observance as a way of life more seriously. If I could just persuade my employer to grant reciprocal holiday entitlements to the adherents of different persuasions and see if I can sign up as omni-religious so I can potentially benefit from all the holidays provided for all the faiths. It might just work as long as we can bring the bus time-tables back in-house so to speak to be operated on a secular basis. A slight problem with this approach was pointed out to me later in the day in that you have to be born a Hindu apparently and you cannot apply for membership by being nominated, paying a fee and waiting 20 years as you do with respect to joining the MCC at Lords.

Shami and Ashwin opened the bowling on the fourth morning and after 20 minutes Maharaj attempted to hit Ashwin into the crowd and was easily caught by Agarwal at deep long-on ( 396 – 9 ). Ishant replaced Shami after a three over spell and Rabada brought up the South Africa 400 with a blow to the mid-wicket fence off Ishant. Jadaja replaced Ashwin to allow the off-spinner to switch ends and Ashwin thought he had Rabada lbw in the next over. The batsman survived a close call after an Indian review and responded with consecutive boundaries. Ishant returned from the Vizzy End with the same negative field setting he had endured the previous day despite now bowling to the tail end. Ashwin swapped back to his preferred end and instigated another review having rapped Rabada on the pads once more. This time the TV images ruled in his favour and the South Africans were all out for 431 from 131.2 overs. Ashwin finished with 7 – 145 and the overall Indian lead on first innings was 71. It was the fifth occasion Ashwin had taken 7 wickets in an innings and the second against South Africa having taken 7 – 66 in Nagpur in November 2015.

At the beginning of the Indian second innings Agarwal required 20 deliveries to get off the mark and Rohit Sharma was almost stumped but just managed to get his toe back behind the line before de Kock removed the bails in the sixth over. Two balls later he hit Maharaj for an amazing six where he had to fetch the ball from outside the line of off stump and managed to transport it over deep square leg. Agarwal also managed a sweep to the fence before he was caught at slip by du Plessis ( 21 – 1 ). Rabada replaced Philander at the Pavilion End after a four over spell. Maharaj continued at the other end but du Plessis, having realised the ball wasn’t carrying very far, had and placed de Bryun very close to the bat at second slip in a kneeling position. Maharaj dropped short in his sixth over and Rohit mercilessly pulled the ball for six over mid-wicket. Pujara got off the mark after also requiring 20 deliveries and Lunch was taken with the score 35 – 1 from 14 overs with the overall lead 106.

I managed to locate the ice cream wallah during the interval and examined the contents of his cool box. I selected an ice-lolly that came in a little cardboard packet with a picture of a white ice cream on a stick covered with a thin layer of strawberry flavoured ice. I was surprised he charged as much as 50 Rupees for it so I was expecting something special. Dream on. There was of course no ice cream in the middle. It was just sugary ice with red colouring but at least it was cold and refreshing. Piedt was given a bowl after the luncheon interval and Pujara continued to play forward defensive blocks while Rohit looked to smash sixes as often as he could. Piedt quickly found himself looking back over his shoulder as the ball crashed against the wall below the Press Box.

India’s 50 came up with Rohit Sharma having scored 80 % of the runs. If he could somehow manage to stay in for the duration of this innings then the oldest record in cricket history could be in serious danger of being beaten. Pujara was dropped by de Kock off Piedt when on 8. Stumping chances were missed against both batsmen with the one against Rohit being particularly difficult. The 50 partnership came up from 72 balls. Something happened that I failed to see and the Indian number three batsman suddenly woke up. Pujara had scored 8 from 62 balls and he somehow managed another 25 from the next 13 deliveries. Rohit was caught on the boundary by Muthusamy but the replay showed his shoe had just made contact with the rope. The umpire signaled six and then must have suffered from shock when having to signal six after a shot from Pujara in Piedt’s next over.

The noise of all the vuvuzelas was driving me nuts in the stultifying heat. The next time I find myself in Kings Cross Station I must visit the Harry Potter Shop and see if there is a Book of Spells I could buy to teach myself how to silence the damn things. The next thing to do would be to teach the spell to the chai wallahs and coffee sellers so they could earn extra rupees dealing with noise pollution as they walk around the ground selling the hot drinks. The floodlights were switched on during the second drinks interval in the extended afternoon session. Pujara completed his half century from 106 balls and the 100 partnership came up from the next delivery from 184 balls. Muthusamy came on to bowl the 40th over of the innings and Rohit lap-swept him to the fine leg boundary. Pujara edged Rabada straight to first slip but there was no-one there. Two balls later and the same thing happened with the ball flying straight between the wicket-keeper and du Plessis at second or third slip. The 150 partnership was completed from 230 balls. At Tea the overall lead was 246 and score was 175 – 1 from 48 overs. 140 runs had been added in the session for the loss of no wickets from 34 overs.

After tea Piedt bowled too short and Pujara was able to hit another six to deep mid-wicket. Philander eventually trapped him plumb lbw for 81 ( 190 – 2 ). Jadeja was promoted to Number 4 and Muthusamy was given a bowl. Jadaja launched his third ball high into the back of the stand at deep square leg. Rohit was facing Philander when on 99 and he turned a good length ball off his hip to complete his second century of the match from 133 balls including 4 sixes and 9 fours. As soon as he had finished waving his bat to the crowd he swapped it for another one. It was a strange move but in the end it wasn’t difficult to understand why as he went on to smash three consecutive sixes off Piedt a few overs later. He was finally stumped for 127 and became the first Indian batsman to be stumped in both innings of a Test match ( 239 – 3 ). It was an odd way for him to be dismissed as he had never been out stumped before in a career spanning 137 first class innings prior to this Test match.

Kohli came in and had some fun for half hour. Maharaj was smashed high over cow corner and the next ball was carved through the covers. Jadeja hit Piedt for a straight six and another over long-on in the same over. It looks like I might need to invest in a new blue pen soon as the one I use for recording sixes will soon be worn out. Rabada came back into the attack and he cleaned up Jadeja with his fifth delivery ( 286 – 4 ). Jadeja had made 40 from 32 balls. 50 runs were added in 5 overs as the Indian batsmen charged from 250 to 300 in 24 minutes. Rahane hit a six over extra cover and Kohli eventually declared on 323 – 4 from 67 overs with an overall lead of 394 with 13 overs remaining to be bowled in the day.

Ashwin and Jadeja opened the bowling as expected and Ashwin managed to get a delivery to shoot along the ground to Elgar in the first over. Kohli had a fielder stationed at long-on and I have tried to work out why but it is simply beyond my understanding of cricket tactics. Jadeja had a big shout for lbw against Elgar turned down by Illingworth. It was obviously a very close call and Kohli called for the Review and unfortunately for the South Africans Elgar got the three red lights ( 4 – 1 ). De Bruyn and Markram managed to survive until after the 9th over. The umpires met in the middle and decided that even with spin at both ends it really was too dark. Play ended 4 overs early at 5.15 pm with the score 11 – 1.


DAY FIVE: “Shami blasts away the South African resistance to lead India to victory

Raju had returned early from his farm confirming Vasu’s story that a plague of insects had emerged after the recent rains and were threatening to devour his crop. It was unfortunate that the language barrier prevented further enquiries as to the nature of the crop, the identification of the insects and details of the form of chemical warfare adopted as an emergency control measure. I managed to get Raju to stop briefly at the main gate to the Kambalakondo Tourism Park where I tried to explain that I wanted to gain access to the Wildlife Sanctuary behind the main park for bird watching at 6 am the following morning. I observed the correct combination of head wagging and nods when I asked for a guide to meet me at the entrance. I can only hope that the sign on the gate saying “Open at 9 am” isn’t strictly enforced and indeed it probably won’t be when there are a few rupees to be made.

When Jadeja completed his haul of 200 wickets in his 44th Test match yesterday he had beaten Rangana Herath’s marker of 47 for the fewest games required by a left arm bowler to achieve the feat. Mitchell Johnson had required 49, Mitchell Starc 50 and both Bishan Bedi and Wasim Akram had needed 51 Tests. During breakfast this morning I read an interesting article in the Indian Express about the progress of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign to clean up India and how it had successfully encouraged and presumably sponsored the development of bench type seats made from recycled plastic. Several of these new waterproof benches have apparently appeared on the platforms at Churchgate Railway Station in Mumbai recently. The policy for providing free water in paper cups for this match has led to possibly 50,000 fewer plastic bottles being thrown away over a five day period. Unfortunately the same cannot be said regarding the provision of food at the ground as the bins quickly fill up with the plastic containers used to sell rice dishes and thalis at the back of the stands.

Before the match started the spectators were reminded to stay off the playing area after an extraordinary incident on Friday when someone managed to get through the security cordon to run on the pitch and quickly take a “selfie” while standing beside Rahane at deep mid-on. The match began on schedule and De Bruyn played on to the eleventh delivery of the morning to give Ashwin yet another wicket ( 19 – 2 ). Shami bowled Bavuma with an absolute beauty in the next over. It pitched on middle and moved sharply to take the off stump and with Bavuma’s momentum taking him in the direction of the ball he managed to lose his balance and ended up falling in an undignified heap next to the shattered stumps (20 – 3).

Markram used his feet to hit Ashwin for a six over long-on and Ishant replaced Shami at the Pavilion End after a three over spell. Jadeja took over from Ashwin and Shami returned after Ishant had bowled three overs. Du Plessis hit Shami’s fourth delivery to the boundary but when he didn’t play a shot to the fifth he lost his off stump in spectacular fashion as it came flying out of the ground. ( 52 – 4 ). De Kock was bowled through the gate by a delivery from Shami’s next over that cut back significantly from outside off stump ( 60 – 5 ). Raju had come up with an enterprising way of making a few extra rupees when dropping me at the ground this morning. As it was far from clear when the match would finish he suggested he stay with the car close to the ground throughout the day and then we would be able to leave as and when we needed to. Given the current state of the match I was glad I had agreed to the proposal.

Markram was brilliantly caught and bowled by Jadeja off a full blooded drive jumping high to his left to take the ball cleanly in his left hand ( 70 – 6 ). Philander was subjected to a huge lbw appeal from his third delivery and Kohli called for the review almost immediately when umpire Illingworth ruled not out. The appeal was upheld and Philander was on his way ( 70 – 7 ). Maharaj was lbw in identical fashion to the next delivery and this time Illingworth raised his finger. Maharaj called for a review but it was to no avail ( 70 – 8 ). Piedt defended the hat-trick ball calmly on to the off side. Jadeja had suddenly bowled a triple wicket maiden and currently had figures of 8 – 4 – 17 – 4. He became only the third left arm spinner to take 150 wickets in home Test matches after Daniel Vettori and Rangana Herath.

Ashwin replaced Shami at the Vizzy End and Piedt decided it was time to give Jadeja some of his own medicine by hitting him for 4 and 6 off consecutive balls. Yesterday Jadeja had made a mess of Piedt’s bowling figures and the South African batsman was determined to get his revenge. Muthusamy had the perfect opportunity to show his potential for the future and both batsmen proved a lot harder to dislodge than Kohli had been expecting. Shami was brought back to try to finish the job before lunch. The message on the TV replay screen reminded the South African batsmen they still needed 299 to win. Piedt continued to smash boundaries off Jadeja while Muthusamy was content to adopt a more patient approach and take the occasional single as appropriate at the other end. The umpires put lunch back by 15 minutes but the Indian bowlers couldn’t force the break through.

The stadium was pretty full at this stage as word had spread around town that entry was now free for anyone wanting to watch the end of the match. Piedt was dropped on 30 at silly mid-off. Lunch was eventually taken with the score 117 – 8 from 42 overs with the ninth wicket partnership already worth 47 runs. During the interval I finally found a cement advertisement inside the ground on one the 4/6 cards handed out free on entry showing Ambuja Cement as the sponsor. Even though the ground was fuller than normal there were very few vuvuzelas and the environment was much more pleasant today for watching Test match cricket. After lunch a sweep to the fine leg boundary from Muthusamy brought up the 50 partnership from 105 balls. Rohit Sharma bowled an over while the other spinners switched ends.

Piedt completed a unlikely half century from 86 balls with his previous best score being 19 from 7 Test matches. In fact from those 7 Tests the aggregate number of runs he had scored was only 48. Shami was eventually brought back into the attack with the partnership worth 91 runs. His first delivery knocked back Piedt’s off stump from a thick inside edge ( 161 – 9 ). The batsmen had set a new record for the ninth wicket in Tests between India and South Africa beating the previous score of 80 put together by VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble. Rabada edged his first delivery for a boundary again to where a first slip should have been stationed especially with only one wicket left to take to win the match. Rabada smacked Jadeja for a 4 and a 6 and then Muthusamy edged Shami into the vacant first slip area. It was quite pathetic to witness the appalling Indian field settings to the fast bowlers once again. Kohli immediately put a first slip in place as if he had just remembered he is allowed to have fielders within the imaginary circle during Test matches.

Rabada was caught behind having a wild swipe at Shami bringing to an end a 10th wicket partnership that produced a further 30 runs. The South Africans were all out for a more respectable score than looked likely when they were struggling on 70 – 8 half an hour before lunch. They ended up with 191 from 63.5 overs and the Indians won the Test match comfortably by a margin of 203 runs. Shami finished with 5 – 35 and Jadeja 4 – 87 having had figures of 4 – 17 at one stage. Senuran Muthusamy made 49 not out in the second innings and 33 not out in the first which is hopefully the beginning of a long career playing for the South Africans. Rohit Sharma was understandably given the Player of the Match award for scoring 303 runs in the match and a century in each innings. The players will move on to Pune for the second Test which begins on Thursday 10th October 2019 and the South African captain will be hoping he can somehow win the toss for once and allow his team to bat first in Maharashtra.






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