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Mohammed Siraj unleashed: India pacer's electric 6-wicket haul slices through South Africa as hosts slump to 96-year-low

Jan 03, 2024 03:19 PM IST

Mohammed Siraj registered his third five-wicket haul in Test cricket as India ran through South Africa's top-order at Newlands in Cape Town.

There were a couple aimed at Dean Elgar's rib cage. The South Africa stand-in skipper, in his last Test, somehow managed to survive even though one lobbed in the air and landed agonisingly close to the short leg and short mid on fielders. India were out there with a clear plan in the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town. Or were they? After Mohammed Siraj peppered Elgar's weak point - he has been out caught down the leg four times in his last three Test - Jasprit Bumrah dished out a toe-crushing yorker that nearly swept the left-hander's off his feat. The wry smile on his face was perhaps the biggest indicator that the Indian pacers were back. And that there was no pattern to their destruction. Both edges were being challenged. It was going to be head-to-toe stuff. This was the pace attack that tormented batters around the world for the last five years. They had merely taken a breather in Centurion.

India's Mohammed Siraj celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's David Bedingham(REUTERS)
India's Mohammed Siraj celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's David Bedingham(REUTERS)

While all this was happening at Elgar's end, Siraj was working his way through Aiden Markram, the other South African opener. He started off with a few deliveries pitched on good length. The noticeable factor was the bounce. It made it impossible for Markram to get on top of it and drive it through the covers - his go-to shot in any format. Siraj understood this. After softening him up, he pitched one lightly fuller but with the same shape towards the slips. Markram, wary of the bounce, did not get a big stride in and offered a push with hard hands. The ball swung and got the outside edge. Yashasvi Jaiswal at second slip took a brilliant low catch diving to his left.

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There were early signs that by opting to bat, South Africa have got their hands full.

In the next over, Bumrah bowled two more yorkers from the other end - one to Elgar and the other to new man Tony de Zorzy. Siraj, however, was working on an entirely different plan. He was so accurate to Elgar that the experienced left-hander, who scored a mammoth 185 in the Boxing Day Test, had nowhere to go. And then came the sucker ball outside the off stump. It was an oasis to a man stuck in a desert. Elgar, with no foot movement, jabbed at it with hard hands and got an inside edge back onto his stumps. Siraj got his second and the Indians were jubilant. They had both the South African openers back in the hut for 8.

Bumrah and Siraj weren't bad in Centurion but in Newlands, they were lethal. They made two notable adjustments - they had a clear plan for every South African batter and they were relentless. Absolute nothing (read it twice) loose was on offer.

The pressure was too much for debutant Tristan Stubbs. He pushed at one with hard hands, got an inside edge and Rohit Sharma at short leg took a simple catch to put Bumrah on the board.

In the next over, the Zorzi fell to the leg side trap that was set for Elgar. Siraj had three. It was easily his best spell in recent times in Test cricket. South Africa were 15/4.

South Africa's top four batters accumulated only 11 runs - that's the second-lowest in their history and the lowest since 1927 when South Africa's top-four accounted for 12 runs.

The first boundary of the innings came in the 9th over when Bumrah, trying hard to get the leg before, strayed down the leg side and it went for four byes. That's how hard run-scoring was.

After a mouthwatering first spell, Rohit took Bumrah off the attack but Siraj continued from his end. He nearly ended up grabbing his fourth when Kyle Verryenne was given out lbw for 4 only for it to be overturned after the keeper-batter opted for DRS.

But it was not possible to keep Siraj at bay for long. In his 8th over, he got one to bite awkwardly from a length to Bedingham, who could glove it to the slip cordon. South Africa lost half their side for 34.

Siraj started with two in-dippers to Marco Jansen and he got bowled a leg-cutter in the next delivery. It was too good for the all-rounder. All he could was get a nick to the keeper. It was his third five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

With figures of 5/9 in 8 overs, Rohit decided to give another over to Siraj and the man from Hyderabad did not disappoint. He got another wicket, this time of Verreynne.

If Rohit had it his way, he would have perhaps never taken Siraj off the attack. But nine overs at a stretch was way too much and a 10th would have been risking an injury. Siraj ended his first spell with figures of 6/15 and South Africa were starting down one of their worst performances at home Tests.

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