India vs South Africa 1st Test Reaction: Kohli Shocked with Proteas Decision, But Smith Believes India Played it Safe

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By Deepak Vikraman | December 23, 2013 3:30 PM EST

Mohammed Shami celebrates with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane after dismissing JP Duminy in the final day of the first Test in Johannesburg, December 22. Reuters

Virat Kohli could not believe South Africa did not go for a victory in the first Test, after having done all the hard work to reach within touching distance of a world record chase. Proteas skipper Graeme Smith, however, not amused by Kohli's belief that SA should have knocked down the needed runs to at the Wanderers to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series, insisted it was India that played it safe in the end.

On Sunday, everyone got to witness one of the great modern-day Test matches, with both India and South Africa coming ever so close to a win only to have it snatched away from both of them. The end result was a draw, a draw that will stay in the minds of most for a long, long time.

The match after see-sawing one way and then the other time and again, was in South Africa's grasp, with the home side needing 16 runs from 20 deliveries before Faf Du Plessis, who made an unimaginable century, ran himself out.

That left Vernon Philander to do most of the run-work, with the fast bowler and Dale Steyn eventually deciding to play it safe, which in turn resulted in a draw as India also failed to pick up the final three wickets needed for victory.

"Everyone was pretty shocked honestly," Kohli said of South Africa's decision to not go for the win. "We didn't think that they would stop going for the score because with eight runs an over and with Philander striking the ball pretty well -- and he can bat, we have seen that in the past -- I don't know what happened.

"We had our plans, and that was going for the wickets but to see them not going for that score was pretty surprising for all of us."

Smith, however, disagreed with Kohli, and believes it was India who were negative towards the end, pointing to the field placing set by MS Dhoni; even though going by the boos that rang around the Wanderers, as it became clear South Africa were not going for the win, it was clear what the fans thought about the final phase of play.

"They (India) certainly didn't have four slips, short leg and a gully," the SA captain said. "I can throw the thing back at you if you want. I think certainly they didn't play like a team that had been wanting to win the game.

"In the end [it was] probably a fair result for both the teams. I know there is a lot of emotion around, public sentiment, naturally so, but as a team I think we are in a strong position going into Durban."

That Durban Test, starting on Boxing Day, is expected to be another you-cannot-miss-it contest, and Kohli, who was adjudged the man of the match for a century and 96, believes India go into the second match with the slight advantage. "If you ask me if we claim an emotional victory, we were on top on the first four days of the Test match," Kohli added. "The fifth day they played brilliantly, but in the end when they had the chance to actually go for the total, they didn't.

"That was surprising for us. That revived or rejuvenated our confidence once again. It doesn't feel nice when there is a big partnership. You are low and down, and the bowlers cannot put in so much of effort continuously. But they gave us an opening in the end again so I think we take a lot of confidence from that."

India went into the final day as favourites to go 1-0 up in the series, but try as they might they just could not break down the impregnable wall created by Du Plessis and AB De Villiers, who also struck a marvellous century.

"It was a weird situation in today's [Sunday's] play from the beginning," Kohli said. "There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the day. Early on we got two quick wickets in the first session and we thought that another couple of wickets in the second session would have been perfect for us but AB and Faf batted brilliantly, especially Faf not having scored runs in the first innings.

"To bat under pressure like that shows so much character. Of course AB has always been a world-class player and there is no doubt about it.

"Both of them batted brilliantly and AB's dismissal just opened up things for us and then when we got JP (Duminy) out, we thought we will win the game. Then Vernon came and struck a few boundaries and then we thought that we are on the back-foot again.

"When we ran out Faf we thought we will win again and it was just too much going on in the end.

"We showed great character to come back taking three wickets in the end. This team never backs off. Obviously you are playing against the number one team in the world and you can expect that from them. It is not easy to defeat them in a Test match and they keep coming back. But to come back that way and get those wickets in that last session is commendable"

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