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Free falling- The Uncut

Free falling- The Uncut

The Uncut

CHENNAI: It’s about ten minutes past four on a bright Wednesday evening in Cape Town. At Newlands, Mohammed Siraj is running in to bowl just his tenth over of the day. From the outset, it might seem like a normal day of Test cricket, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s one of those rare days that keeps one on the edge of the seat throughout the day’s play.

In the hours that preceded, Siraj had already taken six of the 20 that had fallen — 6/15, his best figures in Test cricket. South Africa were bundled out in the first session for just 55 — their lowest score since readmission into the sport. India lost their last six wickets without adding any run on the board to be dismissed for 153 — after gaining a 98-run lead. Eight batters got out for a duck, only seven of the 25 batters who took guard went into double digits. To sum it up, it had been a crazy day of Test cricket in Cape Town.

If you are still here, trying to get a grip of what on earth happened, let’s try and break it down. While Dean Elgar opted to bat first going by past surfaces, despite the extra bounce that Newlands usually offers, he and South Africa were not ready for Siraj. The pacer, almost making up for his inconsistencies in the past, was just running in and hitting the right spots, and letting the surface take care of the rest. And as is the case when things are going one’s way, everything he touched turned into gold.

The edges happened, and it carried to the slip cordon where catches were taken, and before he even knew, Siraj had bowled nine overs on the trot, taking six wickets in his first spell of the day. By the time the players walked off for lunch, Indian pacers had earned their match-fee and some more for the day, dismissing South Africa for 55.

While Indian innings did not turn out very different, they had the early advantage. Rohit Sharma (39) and Shubman Gill (36) went on a  counter-attacking spree, avoiding a collapse. Then came Virat Kohli whose 46 looked worth every run in gold. Despite the wickets crumbling at the other end — Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Nandre Burger making the most of their height to extract steep bounce — he prolonged India’s lead. However, once KL Rahul got out, it only took 10 more deliveries before SA batted again to end the day on 62/3.

Now, days like these are not new at Newlands. Since 2011, Australia have been bowled out for 47, New Zealand for 45 — both in less than 20 overs, but were followed by big batting days. On Wednesday, though, the difference was the variation in bounce from the same spot. If one fuller delivery was lifting chest high, the other was going at knee level.

According to Cricviz’s Expected Runs and Wickets model, the Expected Average of 18 on Wednesday is the lowest for any first day of the Test match since the start of the ball tracking era. Albeit not threatening to the batters, those 21 of the 22 wickets taken by bowlers were projected to miss the stumps (according to Cricviz) says it all. “On these wickets, often bowlers tend to think, ‘let me try and bowl an outswinger darting from leg to off or get one to bend back from angle’ but one should just stick to one line. If you hit areas, wickets  will come automatically,” Siraj said.

South Africa have seven wickets in hand and if the conditions get better, things could get better for the batters. However, for now, after an enthralling day of Test cricket, India made the most of what was presented to them. They have the upper hand, and will have to have a horrible few days to not level the series.

23 wickets fall at Newlands as India gain strong footing on Day One of the second Test

South Africa (1st innings): Markram c Jaiswal b Siraj 2, Elgar (c) b Siraj 4, De Zorzi c Rahul b Siraj 2, Stubbs c Sharma b Bumrah 3, Bedingham c Jaiswal b Siraj 12, Verreynne c Gill b Siraj 15, Jansen c Rahul b Siraj 0, Maharaj c Bumrah b Mukesh 3, Rabada c Gill b Mukesh 5, Burger c Jaiswal b Bumrah 4, Ngidi not out 0; Extras: (B-4, LB-1) 5, Total: (All out in 23.2 ovs) 55; FoW: 1-5, 2-8, 3-11, 4-15, 5-34, 6-34, 7-45, 8-46, 9-55; Bowling: Bumrah 8-1-25-2, Siraj 9-3-15-6, Prasidh 4-1-10-0, Mukesh 2.2-2-0-2; India (1st innings): Jaiswal b Rabada 0, Sharma (c) c Jansen b Burger 39, Gill c Jansen b Burger 36, Kohli c Markram b Rabada 46, Iyer c Verreynne b Burger 0, Rahul c Verreynne b Ngidi 8, Jadeja c Jansen b Ngidi 0, Bumrah c Jansen b Ngidi 0, Siraj run out (Burger) 0, Krishna c Markram b Rabada 0, Mukesh not out 0; Extras: (B-4, LB-10, NB-5, W-5) 24; Total: (All out in 34.5 ovs) 153; FoW: 1-17, 2-72, 3-105, 4-110, 5-153, 6-153, 7-153, 8-153, 9-153; Bowling: Rabada 11.5-2-38-3, Ngidi 6-1-30-3, Burger 8-2-42-3, Jansen 9-2-29-0. South Africa (2nd Innings): Markram not out 36, Elgar (c) c Kohli b Mukesh 12, De Zorzi c Rahul b Mukesh 1, Stubbs c Rahul b Bumrah 1, Bedingham not out 7; Extras (lb1, nb4) 5; Total (For three wickets in 17 Ovs) 62; FoW: 1-37, 2-41, 3-45; Bowling: Bumrah 6-0-25-1, Siraj 5-2-11-0, Mukesh 6-2-25-2.

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