The first Test between South Africa and India ended in a draw, which divided opinion. On the one side were those desperate to see history being made by South Africa, doing all they can to chase down the highest total ever in Test cricket. The other camp was just content that the Proteas managed to survive and draw a match in a two-match series—a draw which never looked possible at the start of play on the final day. It's a result that will be much debated, but as a whole, it was quite a Test match and there were certainly more winners than there were losers.
Curators of pitches don't often get enough credit when they do a good job. Chris Scott, the groundsman at the Wanderers, deserves a street named after him. He prepared an incredibly good wicket that resulted in an incredibly good Test. There was enough in it for the batsmen to dig in and score runs if they put their minds to it, but there were also enough nooks and cracks to allow the bowlers to never be out of the game completely. Even though the game ended in a draw, South Africa came very close to making history and chasing down a massive total, despite a number of balls spitting and flying around after hitting cracks. Praise be to Mr. Scott.
South Africa's bottle
At the start of Day 5, it was looking like South Africa were going to lose the first match. With the track doing enough for the bowlers when they got it in the right areas and some dubious batting from their batsmen in the first innings, India looked set to clinch a famous win. Then South Africa did what they have so often done in Tests over the last 18 months. They dug in. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis' rearguard was reminiscent of their effort in Australia last year. The 205 runs scored between the pair helped South Africa save face in the end. While the Proteas' bottle is often questioned in the limited overs format, it cannot be faulted when their backs are against the wall in a Test.
So much was made about the ability of India's batsmen and how they would struggle in South Africa. They might have looked out of sorts in the one-day series, but Virat Kohli, Che Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane all showed signs of being more than competent on South African tracks and against South Africa's bowlers. All three put in a fine effort and looked capable against the best bowling attack in the world. It's especially encouraging to see India's new generation of players perform so well.
JP Duminy scored 2 and 5 in the Test and, most crucially, he got out early when South Africa were on course to pull off a historic win. After playing a wonderful shot for four, he got out trying to go for another flashy cover drive and left the tail-enders with Faf du Plessis. Duminy has played just three Tests this year after his return from a terrible injury. He scored one fifty in five innings, which was also the only time he managed to get into double figures. He played a handy role with the ball in hand, but that is not the main reason he is on the team.
Shikhar Dhawan is an exciting prospect and the chance to see how he performs outside of Indian conditions was really enticing. Yet, he's been one of the flops of the tour. He failed to pass 20 in both innings of the first Test, and even in those knocks he looked uncomfortable and a shadow of the flamboyant showman he is.
The concept of a series
How on earth is South Africa's character and will to win being questioned? This is the same team that scored 414 in the fourth innings against Australia to make history. It's the same team that managed to save a Test match in grand style this weekend. South Africa's main aim was to not lose this Test. In a two-match series, with a dodgy record at Durban and unpredictable weather, the risk of being 1-0 down was too big to take. Two Tests should not be referred to as a series; it's simply two Tests. If it were three Tests, an actual series, it's far more likely that South Africa would have taken the risk and backed themselves to come back if they had lost. With just two matches, the psychology of averting defeat mattered far more than covering yourself in glory. Although, it was still a pretty glorious draw, all things considered. Test series are supposed to ebb and flow and two matches simply do not allow that.