It’s all happening here at Durban, in the First Test between the Proteas and the visiting Sri Lankans. Dale Steyn has just gone past Kapil Dev’ Test tally and currently sits on 433 Test wickets with 7 more Sri Lankan wickets on offer. Protea fans would hope, “Go..go Dale!” Vishwa Fernando, with just 3 Tests against his name, has scalped 8 victims already with his left-arm medium pace.
His teammate, playing in only his debut Test, slow left-arm orthodox bowler Lasith (not all Lasith’s are Malinga after all) Embuldeniya has captured a fifer at Durban.
Who saw that coming?
The 22-year-old’s victims included Quinton de Kock and Dean Elgar in the second innings. De Kock’s dismissal in the second inning meant something to Sri Lanka, the left-hander having carved 135 runs in the game. Meanwhile, South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis, hero behind a tour de force against Australia on his Test debut (2012), an effort that manifested in an epic ton that came of 376 balls, 466 minutes demonstrated similar grit (and love for grind) in striking 90 odd runs in the third inning.
As South Africa’s captain, this knock, laced with 11 fours coming of 182 boundaries stood out particularly since no other Protea batsman, barring de Kock even managed to reach a fifty- Amla, Markram, and Elgar appearing bland and unimpressive in the Test.
So, what happens now?
Where the game stands at this point in time, with Philander and Rabada already in the business- 1 wicket apiece- Sri Lanka would be worried. No, they would be very worried. Wondering why? Well, for starters, the trio of Karunaratne, Thirimanne, and Kusal Mendis are already bench warming in the pavilion.
What remains in front of us spectators and fans of this great battle that is about to embrace the fourth day on Saturday, 16 February 2019 could be something thrilling, pure thrilling.
Poor form at Durban for its heroes
Faf du Plessis’ South Africa, who haven’t enjoyed the best of forms at Kingsmead would be hoping to placate their fans who may not be proud of their team’s dismal Durban record. They’ve barely won here at Durban.
Two decades back in time, Durban stood tall as a fortress protecting its home team. It was, for the lack of a better expression, South Africa’s equivalent of Australia’s WACA.
That was then, during the times of Jack Kallis, Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock, and Graeme Smith. Fans of South African cricket being at its peak during the early and mid-2000s may not possibly forget that it was here at Kingsmead that the Proteas achieved 2 of its greatest Test victories.
In 2002-03, South Africa chipped Pakistan off the block courtesy a mega 10-wicket win on this very same ground. A decade later, the side would thrash Pakistan’s staunchest cricketing rivals India on the very same ground.
The Kingsmead. by the way, also happens to be the ground where two of South Africa’s batting greats of all time, Graeme Pollock and Gary Kirsten reached their highest individual Test scores.
What about now?
What’s gone wrong?
Over the course of the past decade, a period that’s seen major shuffles in the longest format, most noticeably the recent exits of Abraham de Villiers and Morne Morkel, Faf du Plessis’ side haven’t really had much joy in contesting at the checkered cricket ground.
Moreover, as on March 2018, South Africa had lost 6 of their 10 Tests played at Durban at that point in time. Therefore, time for some revival Faf and men?
To that end, first things first. Even if Sri Lanka have the luxury of taking their own sweet time with there being no less than 2 full days of Test cricket left, South Africa would sense some blood.
For starters, the trio of Karunaratne, Thirimane, and the dangerous Kusal Mendis- 12 in the second inning- have been dislodged already.
So this gives Faf du Plessis the opportunity to pucker up his bowlers, one of whom is the rabid and dangerous Dale Steyn, who only hours back said he felt like a new person, a new bowler who’d just begun breaking free.
Moreover with Rabada and Philander for the company, can South Africa not claim the remaining 7 wickets. The only problem, however, on that part would be that the tourists need no fewer than 221 runs.
So can the Proteas show their fire?