Heinz Schenk
1 minute read
22 Dec 2013
12:00 am

Proteas eight short of history

Heinz Schenk

The biggest thrill one would've received from an absorbing draw between the Proteas and India here yesterday was the paradoxical fact that the home side's eight-run shortfall in a record-breaking chase of 458 should have been celebrated.

Ab de Villiers of South Africa during day 5 of the the 1st Cricket Test Match between South Africa and India at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 22, 2013 © Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

When South Africa resumed on 138/2, all three eventualities existed for this pursuit.

Naturally, they didn’t carry the same weight of possibility.

By far the most popular predicted outcome was a stalemate.

After all, this team relishes backs-to-the-wall stuff.

You saw it at Lord’s in 2008 and in Adelaide exactly 13 months ago.

India also would have harboured thoughts of a second successive Test victory at this ground – nothing is more mundane in cricket than a side buckling under the weight of a huge target.

But a South African victory?

320 in three sessions is about 110 runs per session – gettable, but in many contexts unrealistic.

For much of the day, both sides probably fulfilled their responsibilities with a draw in mind.

The tourists generally failed to make an impression on a surprisingly docile surface while Faf du Plessis (134) and AB de Villiers (103) measured and pragmatically decided to focus on their comfort and make a call on a possible drive for victory later.

At tea, it was 331/4 – it was on.

Their 205-run stand was classical.

It wasn’t defiant, nor was it overly ambitious.

To be honest, it was perfect.

Before stingy observers complain over South Africa not chasing the victory, it must be remembered that the dynamic of this format is different.

Not chasing the 458 didn’t mean the hosts lost, but doing so when wickets fell late in the day, they could have.

That’s the tantalising beauty of this game.