South Africa found themselves bundled out for a mere 55 runs in the first session of the New Year's Test against India. This abysmal performance marked South Africa's lowest Test total since their readmission to international cricket in 1992.
However, the story of the day was not just South Africa's dismal batting but also the exceptional bowling performance by India's Mohammed Siraj.
Dean Elgar's decision to bat first after winning the toss raised eyebrows, especially considering Newlands' reputation as a batsman-friendly venue. The pitch, though unpredictable due to its patchwork nature, seemed to have some demons in it that favored the bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj capitalized on these conditions, wreaking havoc on the South African batting lineup right from the start.
Aiden Markram, South Africa's opener, was the first to fall as he edged a delivery from Siraj that shaped away late, leaving him with little chance to defend. The Indian bowlers continued to exploit the conditions, keeping both the stumps and the close-in fielders in play.
Elgar, the South African captain, soon followed Markram back to the pavilion, chopping a delivery from Siraj onto his stumps. Siraj's strategy of attacking the stumps and the body of Elgar paid off, causing the skipper's dismissal.
Tristan Stubbs and Tony de Zorzi's brief stays at the crease added to South Africa's misery as they fell to Bumrah and Siraj respectively. Stubbs offered a bat-pad catch to Rohit Sharma at short leg, while de Zorzi was caught by KL Rahul down the leg side.
As the morning session unfolded, the Proteas were left reeling at 29 for 4. South Africa had already dropped Keegan Petersen and opted for an extra seamer, but the decision seemed to backfire as the top-order crumbled under relentless pressure from India's new-ball pair.
Wickets fell like nine pins! 🎳— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) January 3, 2024
.@mdsirajofficial & Co. were on the target this morning, snapping up all 10 #SouthAfrica wickets in just the first session of the Test!
Watch all the fall of wickets here!
Tune-in to #SAvIND 2nd Test
LIVE NOW | Star Sports Network#Cricket pic.twitter.com/viu3OGxCL8
David Bedingham and Kyle Verreynne were left with the monumental task of rescuing their team from the abyss. Bedingham, new to international cricket, struggled with the extra bounce generated by the pitch, ultimately gloving behind for just 12 runs. Verreynne, known for his aggressive approach, also fell victim to the relentless Indian attack, failing to put a high enough price on his wicket.
The collapse reached its nadir when India's Mohammed Siraj took his career-best figures of 6 for 15 in just nine overs.
The irresistible Mohammed Siraj rattles South Africa
Siraj's first spell was nothing short of sensational, with his deliveries hitting the right length and moving effectively to trouble the South African batsmen.
He became only the second Indian pacer, after Jasprit Bumrah, and the fifth pacer overall to claim six wickets in a single session since 2016.
The demoralized South African side was eventually bowled out for a paltry 55 runs, with Siraj leading the way as the wrecker-in-chief. This total marked not only South Africa's lowest against India in Test cricket but also their lowest Test total since 1932.
The day, which was supposed to be historic with the first New Year's Test in four years and South Africa leading the series 1-0, ended up as a complete disappointment for the home team and their enthusiastic fans.
The sold-out crowd had high hopes but watched in despair as their team crumbled against the relentless Indian bowling attack.
The question now is whether South Africa can mount a comeback in this Test match after such a disastrous start. With India's bowlers in top form, the Proteas will need a miraculous turnaround to salvage their position in the game.