After suffering a 113-run defeat in the opening Test in Centurion, South Africa fought back with a superb seven-wicket victory at the Wanderers to level the three-match series 1-1.
Chasing 240 to win, the hosts rode on skipper Dean Elgar’s unbeaten 96 and Rassie van der Dussen’s 40 to get over the line comfortably in the final session on Day 4.
Reflecting on South Africa’s chase, former seamer Vernon Philander said Proteas’ attacking intent caught the Indian bowlers by surprise.
“It was probably the best batting performance I’ve seen from the Proteas in a while. The guys were really clinical, and I think the way Dean led with the bat was phenomenal. He made sure he stayed in to a built partnerships with the other batters around him,” Philander told Cricket South Africa website.
“I think in the first innings the boys were a bit tentative, maybe a bit on the defensive side of things. But if you look at the second innings we saw some clear intent.
“The guys were looking to score quicker and you could see the difference it made in demeanour, in body language and the sort of surprise it gave the Indian bowlers, who wouldn’t have expected the South Africans to come out and attack as they did.
“It makes a massive difference when you just come out and just allow the bowler to bowl at you compared to showing positive intent like they did. The way they batted was proper,” he added.
Philander also lauded the South African bowling attack for restricting the visitors to 202 and 266 across the two innings in Johannesburg.
“We’ve always been known to be slow starters, but the way the boys bounced back after losing the toss as well was excellent. There was a lot of expectations on the bowlers to bowl India out and they did that. I thought they bowled phenomenally well in partnerships.
“They probably started a little bit slow in the second innings and may have been disappointed with the areas they hit. They could have been trying too hard and in the process afforded India more opportunities than they would have expected.”
Philander had special praise reserved for Kagiso Rabada, who returned with six wickets, three scalps in each innings. In particular, his second innings spell stood out as he dismissed Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Rishabh Pant in quick succession to trigger India’s collapse.
“With the ball we can’t not mention KG and that one spell where he turned the game upside down after lunch. In a series like this against a strong India team, you’re going to need bowlers to deliver spells like those that break the game open completely,” he said.
The series-deciding third and final Test is due to be held in Cape Town from January 11.
“I don’t think there’s much between the two teams going into Cape Town. The last Test would have given South Africa a massive boost on all fronts.
“Very often that is all that you need, one win as a team to give you that confidence and momentum. They will feel they now have that behind them and they can go on to win the series,” Philander said.
“Coming to Newlands, one of our favourite hunting grounds, I’m really looking forward to the final Test. It’s going to be a cracker.”
(With PTI inputs)