Copy of 2024-01-03T093154Z_1079664721_UP1EK130QH40J_RTRMADP_3_CRICKET-TEST-ZAF-IND-1704299849858
Indian pacer Mohammed Siraj celebrates with skipper Rohit Sharma after dismissing South Africa's Marco Jansen during the first day of the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town on Wednesday. Image Credit: Reuters

Cape Town: After a dismal show in the first Test at Centurion, India were having their backs to the wall and history says that the Men in Blue have not been at their best in South Africa.

To rewrite history a special effort was needed and Mohammed Siraj, who has time and again stood up to be counted, produced another magical spell to finish with a career-best six-wicket haul and to bowl out South African for their lowest score in 92 years in the first innings of the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town on Wednesday.

South Africa were bowled out for 36 and 45 by Australia in a rain-affected pitch in Melbourne in February 1932, while it’s the lowest total by any team in a Test against India, beating 62 by New Zealand in Mumbai in December 2021.

"There was good communication from the wicketkeeper (KL Rahul) about the right lengths to bowl," said Siraj.

Off stump line

“I wanted to hit one area consistently. I did that and got rewarded for it,” he said of his line outside the off stump.

“On these wickets, where the ball is doing so much, often bowlers tend to think, ‘let me try and bowl an outswinger darting from leg to off or get one to bend back from angle’, but you should just stick to one line.

“If you hit (good) areas, wickets will come automatically. If you try many things, you yourself can get confused.”

Siraj took 2-91 in the first Test in Pretoria, which was also played on a wicket with pace and bounce. He learnt from that experience.

“I realised what I missed in the last game and wanted to compensate and I executed my plans accordingly.”

Records tumble

On a day when 23 wickets fell off 75.1 overs, it also equalled the record for the fourth most wickets in a single day. India frittered away the initiative losing six wickets for no score off 11 balls. Lungi Ngidi triggered the collapse with three wickets in one over and Kagiso Rabada followed it up with two, including India’s top-scorer Virat Kohli.

Skipper Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill put on a 55-run partnership for the second wicket at a brisk pace to set the tone for the Indian innings before they crumbled later in the day. Left-arm pacer Nandre Burger continued to torment the Indian batting with three wickets.

India equalled their own dubious record of six ducks in an innings, the previous occasion being in 2014 against England in Manchester.

South Africa's Lungi Ngidi left) celebrates after the dismissal of KL Rahul, which triggered the Indian collapse. Image Credit: AFP

However, India still have the edge after gaining a 98-run lead to leave the Test tantalising poised. The hosts are 62 for 3, 36 runs behind India’s score with Mukesh Kumar claiming two wickets. The Indian pacer, who came in place of Shardul Thakur, had also taken two wickets in the first innings without conceding a single run.

Early inroads

Stand-in South African captain Dean Elgar was dismissed twice on the first day of his final Test match. Elgar was out for four and 12 in an ignominious end to a Test batting career, which yielded 5,347 runs in 86 matches at an average of 37.92.

The 29-year-old Siraj made early inroads in the fourth over when he had Aiden Markram caught in the slips. Buoyed by the early success, Siraj went on to gain five more wickets to reduce the hosts to 45 for seven, bowling a perfect line and length. His nine-over unchanged spell brought back memories of demolishing best against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup and in the 50-over World Cup.

Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar led the eulogies for Siraj, who wreaked havoc with six for 15, making the most of a fresh wicket that had plenty of grass and bounce.

“Siraj weaving magic at Newlands! Impeccable length and a spellbinding display of seam bowling!” Tendulkar posted on X. The legend’s words summed up his effort.

- With inputs from agencies