Vernon Philander took the final three India second innings wickets in the space of four balls – the first with a sensational catch by Quinton de Kock standing up to the stumps – to snuff out any thought of a final twist in the tale of the first Sunfoil Test match at PPC Newlands on Monday to clinch a 72-run victory for the Standard Bank Proteas.
Prior to Philander’s triple strike there was just a chance that India might pull off an improbable win as Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar put together an eighth-wicket stand of 49 after India had collapsed to 82/7 in pursuit of a victory target of 208 which was only one run short of what they had managed in the first innings.
Philander finished with career-best figures of 6/42 – improving on his 6/44 against New Zealand in Hamilton in 2011/12.
It was his 12th five-wicket haul in Test cricket with only Dale Steyn (26), Allan Donald (20), Makhaya Ntini (18), Shaun Pollock (16) and Hugh Tayfield (14) having done better in South African colours.
It was a wonderful climax to a thoroughly entertaining match which was effectively decided in three days. On what turned out to be the final day 18 wickets fell for 200 runs as the Proteas first collapsed from their overnight 65/2 to 130 all out from a little bit short of 22 overs and India were then bowled out for 135 in 42.4 overs.
This compared with the 23 wickets that fell in one day for 294 runs when the Proteas scored a remarkable come from behind victory against Australia at the same venue in 2011.
In the end the 77-run first innings lead proved critical for the Proteas.
The combination of the third day’s rain coupled with a fair amount of cloud clover produced a surface that if anything was trickier than it had been on the first day. Apart from those batsmen who were dismissed bowled or leg before wicket nearly all the wickets were the result of catches in the cordon behind the wicket.
Wridhiman Saha took 10 catches in the match for India and De Kock 7 for the Proteas. The home side’s slip catching was a vast improvement on recent performances with Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers taking two catches each and substitute fielder Chris Morris one in the gulley.
Philander was named Sunfoil Man of the Match for his figures of 9/75 although a case could also be made out for AB de Villiers with his half-century in the first innings followed by his making 35 of the 65 runs the Proteas managed on the final morning.
The Sunfoil Educational Trust (SET) benefited to the tune of R214 000 for the number of boundaries and sixes hit in the match and wickets taken.