MOHALI, India (Reuters) – India’s Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin thrived on a spinners’ paradise in Mohali, bamboozling South Africa’s batsmen in the first test to secure a 108-run victory with more than two days to spare on Saturday.
Eighteen wickets tumbled on an extraordinary third day as South Africa wobbled in pursuit of a 218-run victory target before being shot out for just 109 as India took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
Jadeja took five second-innings wickets and his match haul of eight along with the 38 crucial runs he contributed to India’s first innings earned him the man-of-the-match award.
It was a modest target for a South African batting order containing two of the world’s top four test batsmen in Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers but India skipper Virat Kohli had not been too worried.
“I was pretty confident of our bowlers,” Kohli said at the presentation ceremony.
“They have quality batsmen in their side, but we thought that if we are finding it difficult (to score) on this wicket, obviously it’s going to be tough for the opposition as well.”
The Proteas sprang a surprise by sending in paceman Vernon Philander to open the innings, a ploy that failed when Jadeja trapped the batsman lbw for one.
Left-arm spinner Jadeja returned to deal a bigger blow when he castled Amla, the South Africa captain offering no shot to a ball that crashed on to his middle stump.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra drove home the advantage by bowling De Villiers for the second time in the test, a flighted delivery sneaking through the South African talisman’s defence.
Stiaan van Zyl (36) offered resistance, but it was too little in the face of aggressive spin bowling by Jadeja and Ashwin, who also finished with eight wickets in the match.
“200 was a chaseable total but I think 150 would have been more realistic,” said Amla. “Batting first would have been a tad easier.”
South Africa had earlier roared back into contention with off-spinner Simon Harmer (4-61) and leggie Imran Tahir (4-48) tormenting India’s batsmen before the hosts folded for 200 in their second innings.
Resuming on 125-2 in a low-scoring match, India’s hopes of batting the visitors out of the contest received a boost when a groin injury prevented Proteas pace spearhead Dale Steyn from joining the tourists’ attack.
The visitors, however, claimed an astonishing six wickets for 24 runs to peg back India, who were cruising along at 161-2 at one stage.
Overnight batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli began well, looking largely untroubled in their 66-run stand.
Part-timer Van Zyl claimed the vital breakthrough for South Africa when he induced an edge from Kohli (29) and Dane Vilas, standing up, took a good catch behind the stumps.
Tahir struck a crucial blow with his first delivery of the day to dismiss Pujara, whose 77 turned out to be the highest individual score in the spinner-dominated contest.
Harmer then joined the party by dismissing Ajinkya Rahane, Jadeja and Mishra in quick succession.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Ed Osmond)