Johannesburg: Hailing the technique and mental approach of the Indian batsmen in the first Test, former South African captain Kepler Wessels said the visitors are expected to continue their "brilliant" show in the second match, starting Thursday in Durban.
"They were brilliant, just brilliant in the first Test. There was a lot of talk before the series and both the Indian batsmen and bowlers were able to top that in this match with their performance on the field," Wessels, who also played ODI cricket for Australia, said.
He was referring to `scared` and `scarred`, two terms often used in the build-up to this Test series by the Proteas, in particular by their limited-overs captain AB de Villiers and their premier fast bowler Dale Steyn during the preceding three-match ODI series. In particular, Virat Kohli was the target for the latter, having been bruised by a Morne Morkel delivery in the first ODI, also at Johannesburg.
Kohli then replied with 215 runs in two innings, scoring 119 and 96 respectively. His positive attitude perhaps rubbed off on the other batsmen as well, with Cheteshwar Pujara scoring 153 runs in the second innings. "The technique displayed by the Indian batsmen was just brilliant. They were excellent. Leaving the ball was a key feature of their innings. Their mental approach in building the innings and the way almost all of them went about constructing the innings, on both occasions, was quite something," said Wessels.
Both sides were in a winning position at different moments on day five. It was a Test match that went through more ups and downs than a roller-coaster ride. The match was drawn with eight runs and three wickets in the balance, and is already being celebrated as the greatest drawn Test match ever.
It is very tough to say which side was more disappointed on not winning the game, or maybe, both were equally happy to have walked away with a draw. "You cannot blame either set of batsmen or bowlers. Batting in the first innings was tough and bowlers dominated. Bowling was tougher in both the second innings as the pitch eased out. The Indian bowlers didn`t go wrong at all in the fourth innings. South Africa just batted well," he opined.
Even so, he felt that both attacks need better support. "Spinners couldn`t do much here and South Africa missed that support after Morne Morkel`s injury. The conditions in Durban should suit spinners a bit more, not a lot more, yet enough to give them a bigger role to play. It sets up the second Test perfectly ? a Boxing Day spectacle between the two top-ranked teams in the longer format of the game.
The Kingsmead Oval pitch has slowed down over the years and it could be seen in the second ODI wherein the Indian bowlers put in a great performance after being given a hiding in the first match. The batsmen though will need to forget their own performance from that match and it should be easy given how well they batted, thrashing the ODI ghosts in the first Test.
"The Durban Test will be a more even contest. India didn`t have a lot of practice coming into this first Test. But the way they have played here, they will carry a lot of momentum into the second Test. The pitch in Durban should also be easier than this one, so I am pretty sure that India will bat well again," Wessels said.