India won the toss and elected to bat. Jadeja came in for Ashwin, and Peterson came in for Tahir. Dhoni said India now have a lot of overseas Tests lined up, and if they are to play only one spinner, they will have to take a call on who to play depending on conditions. So Ashwin's place as the lead spinner in overseas Tests is no longer guaranteed. That last day at Wanderers has gone against him, and he is out on a pitch that is expected to help spinners much more than Johannesburg did. Shaun Pollock said on air that he had never seen a harder pitch at Kingsmead. Plenty of grass cover, but most of it was dead grass, he pointed out, and was not sure how much it will assist seam. Few cracks around also, and they will come into play as the game goes on. 

Out came Jacques Kallis leading the South Africa team onto the field amid warm applause and a guard of honour by some children thanking him for his contribution to the game of cricket in the last test of his career. S Dhawan and M Vijay came out to open as Dale Steyn was ready to bowl the 1st over of the match. Dhawan got going on the 2nd ball as he hit Steyn for a four. Both of them were looking at ease before a Morkel delivery got the better of Dhawan. Morkel striked first ball after drinks, pitched it up from round the stumps, Dhawan pushed forward at it, and it moved away slightly in the air to hit the edge and it was a simple catch to Petersen at third slip, leaving India short of yet another good opening partnership at 41/0. Pujara came in at 3 and looked well set for a big innings from the 1st ball he played. The day was full of some excellent shots from both Vijay and Pujara as once again India got the upper hand against the hosts. Bad light stopped play with almost a session lost.

With India in a commanding position at 181/1, Vijay at an unbeaten 91 and Pujara at an unbeaten 58, India will be looking to put up a huge score on Day 2 and will try everything which will let them not to bat a 2nd time in this test. 

We'll start early tomorrow, at 9.30am to cover up for some of the lost overs.
 
 
Australia won the toss and elected to field first in the 4th Test of this return ashes series with Australia already having won it. Bairstow's selection over Prior meant he and his late father David become the first father and son combination to have kept wickets for England. As expected Panesar came in for the retired Swann. Australia retained their winning combination.

England started off cautiously, with both Cook and Carberry being on the defensive mode. The 1st breakthrough for Australia came in the 17th over in the form of Cook who was caught at second slip, an indecorous prod from Cook that seemed to betray the muddled state of mind he had got into with his batting, gulled into hanging his bat out and a thick edge flew to Clarke. Like a man reaching for another chocolate late on Christmas day, Cook couldn't resist temptation there. Siddle thus did the trick, on his home ground, a place where he loves to perform. Out came Joe Root at No. 3 with England at 48/1. Part-time bowler Watson got the 2nd breakthrough as he followed the outswinger with the inswinger which completely did Carberry in who shouldered arms and saw the ball clip his off stump. Another start not built on for him. That was some terrific skill on show from Watson. This meant the arrival of the out of form Pietersen. A bowling change from Captain Clarke after the 42nd over did Root in who got 24 runs of 82 balls. Ryan Harris was the man Clarke turned to break this growing stand betweem Root and Pietersen. Harris did just what he wanted and got Root with his 1st delivery. It was a lovely outswinger. Root had been making half-promises and forget-me-not motions at balls outside off all innings and finally he got something on one, pulled on to the front foot, bat dangling away from the pad and a thin but audible nick sailed through to the keeper. In came Ian Bell, hoping to avoid another England collapse in this series which he almost did by facing 98 deliveries for his hard fought 27 runs. It was Harris again who got the breakthrough for Australia. The ball was in the channel outside off, Bell played and got a thin edge to Haddin. Stokes came in and went back after not much time as he was did in by Jhonson's fiery pace. It was in the right area, just holding its line on a good length as Stokes prodded at it indeterminately and a healthy edge flew to Watson at first slip. In came England's new No. 7, Jonny Bairstow. But as it has been with Prior, Bairstow also couldnt do much and got clean bowled to a Jhonson delivery after making just 10 runs. Bairstow wasn't up to the challenge, couldn't learn his lines quickly enough and the ball clattered into the top of off. Excellent delivery it was from Johnson, just a little movement back in, ugly gap between bat and pad and cleaned him up. Bresnan came in with the fall of this wicket and helped Pietersen see the day through with England at 226/6.

As has been the case for much of the series, England's early momentum ebbed away, their scoring rate dipped and that kept Australia in the hunt. Two misses off Pietersen may yet hurt them but, with the ball only nine overs old, Harris, Johnson and Siddle will crank it up again in the morning, eager to mop up those final four wickets.
 
 
It has become a bit of a rarity in Test cricket recently, but here we were on the fifth day of this incredible battle between India and South Africa.

Petersen and Faf started from where they had left but in the 4th over of the day, Shami Ahmed got the wicket of AN Petersen.  The ball kept a touch low and A tame hang of the bat to the back of a length ball outside off stump resulted in an inside edge that cannoned into his stumps. Petersen did not look anywhere near comfortable this morning and both bowlers deserved credit for this wicket for the mix of short and full balls at him. Out came one of South Africa's greatest cricketers, Jacques Kallis to tackle a very difficult situation. The 1st ball was a scare for Kallis as Shami greeted him with an extremely full delivery, which shaped away rather late too. Kallis was playing around his front pad and the movement beat him to strike on the pads, but the impact was outside leg and a loud appeal was denied. But after that Kallis seemed extremely comfortable in front the Indian bowlers who were trying everything to get the experienced seasoned campaigner out. The breakthrough came in the 61st over of the innings as Zaheer Khan got Kallis lbw. It also meant 300 wickets for Zaheer and he waved to the dressing room.  Kallis was not too pleased and had all the right to be as there was a big inside edge on that. Zaheer Kept it fullish, got it to jag in and it kept a touch low as well. He couldn't adjust his stroke to that last little thing and had to pay the price. Kallis got out after scoring a quick fire 34 of 37 balls.  In came the captain of the ship,  AB de Villiers who had to lead by example and help South Africa in securing a draw,at least. There was a big 205 run stand between him and Faf which almost took the Proteas to the footsteps of  victory but then came Ishant with a magical delivery to get AB's stumps cleaned up in the 124th over of the innings. AB could notbelieve it as he hung his head and walked back to the pavilion. It was back of a length, just a touch outside off and as he was trying to steer it to third man, the inside edge was taken and cannoned into the stumps. The crowd and his dressing room stood up in acknowledgment of a terrific innings. This meant the arrival of JP Duminy with South Africa at 402/5 , in a strong position to win the match. In the very next over, Duminy's stumps were knocked off of the bowling of Shami Ahmed. Duminy went for the expansive cover drive on the up and the length ball took a thick inside edge and rammed into the stumps. Things thus started to tense up as VD Philander came out to bat. Needing just 16 to win, Faf was on course to see the Proteas through but destiny had something else in place for him. A direct hit from mid-off did the trick for the Indians. It was punched to Rahane who picked up the ball and flayed it down the stumps. Faf divesdfull length and he was found short of his ground.  He had nailed that drive and did not deserve to get out on that one.  India now needed just three wickets, South Africa needed just 16 runs. Faf looked shellshocked as he went into the dressing room as Steyn walked out. The unexpected happened and the match ended in a draw with a last ball six from Steyn. South Africa was just 8 runs behind what would have been a record breaking victory after 5 enthralling days of cricket.

Next these 2 teams will meet each other in the 2nd and last test of the series on BOXING DAY, The 26th of December.

 
 
 
 
Morne Morkel goes, SA woes

Philander went to fifty off the very first ball of the day and what a shot it was. Got up nice and tall and punched the short ball with some width off through the covers. The 1st breakthrough of the day for India came pretty early as Khan got Philander caught at 1st slip. It was a good sharp take from Ashwin at first slip. It was terrific line and length from Zaheer just outside off and short of length, making the batsman play, the edge resulted and Ashwin took that a bit low to his right, for a moment Vijay at second slip looked interested in going for that one but didn't, Philander had done his bit though, a vital 59 for him. I Sharma on the other end, also bowling a tight line got Steyn caught at slip. The short ball worked, Steyn couldn't get out of the way of that one, tried to fend that away, but it only looped towards Rohit at slip, so both the fielders who put down slip catches yesterday had taken one today. In the very next over Khan saw the back of the main man, Faf Du Plessis. It was a length ball outside off, du Plessis hasn't looked at his best this innings, looking to defend off the front foot, nicked through to the keeper. Khan came back in his next over to get the wicket of Morkel after being hit for a four on the previous ball. He bowled a yorker that took out the off stump and India thus managed a lead of 36 runs. Morkel was going for an almighty swing over the off side, but the ball sneaked under his blade and cannoned into the base of off stump. 

So, just as South Africa knocked over India's tail end yesterday morning, India returned the favour securing a rather vital little lead. 

Dhawan and Vijay started off the Indian innings and Dhawan got out in just the 8th over for a mere 15. Pujara came in, with India once again in a difficult position at 23/1. South Africa suffered a big setback in the 12th over as Morkel injured his ankle and will not be able to bowl in the rest of the match. Morne Morkel has a grade 1 ligament tear on his ankle and will be out for seven to ten days. He will not take the field for this game and his fitness might be in doubt for the next Test as well Pujara and Vijay showed solidarity in the middle but after a good stand of 93 runs, Vijay was quite unfortunate to get out. Kallis bowled a simple length ball, sent down the leg side and he got a tickle to it as AB dived to his left and clinged on. It meant frustration for Vijay again after working so hard to set himself up for a big score, and then falling to a delivery without any threat. He'd been rather solid with balls far better than that. This meant that India's new No. 4, Virat Kohli had to stride out to the middle with India at 93/2. Pujara got to his fifty off 127 balls in the 46th over. Kohli got to his fifty off just 74 balls. Pujara got to his century off 168 balls with a classy drive off the bowling of Steyn for four runs. India ended the day at 284/2 with both Pujara and Kohli growing from strength to strength, not out at 135 and 77 respectively. India now lead by 320 runs with 8 wickets remaining.
 
 
Some rain before the start of play did raise some eyebrows but still play resumed on Day 2 on time as the showers had stopped till then. Dhoni and Rahane started at their overnight score of 17 and 43 respectively  with India fighting at 256/5. Morkel got Dhoni in the 9th over of the day. Dhoni could manage to add only 2 runs to his overnight score of 17. South Africa had been piling the pressure and Dhoni gave in by nicking a length ball just outside off. Getting only half-forward,he poked at it and the ball went through to the keeper. Shifting the length fuller worked for Morkel. Dhoni was disappointed at the decision, walked off shaking his head, perhaps because his bat hit the pad hard at almost the same time that he nicked the ball. In the very next over Philander saw the back of Rahane. He bowled a he perfect Philander delivery, a back of length just outside off, nipping away just a touch, Rahane had no choice but to play at it, feathered it through to the keeper, and India had lost both set batsmen just when it seemed like the early threat had been seen off. Rahane could manage to add only 4 runs to his overnight score of 43. No one realised when Zaheer walked in and when he went back to the pavilion as Philander got him adjudged leg before for a first ball duck. Coming back in his next over, Philander bowled Ishant Sharma with another beauty. This also took him to the mark of 99 wickets in just his 19th test match. Morkel wrapped up the Indian innings in the next over by knocking of the middle stump of Mohammed Shami Ahmed. India lost their last 5 wickets for just 16 runs . India thus finally caved in to 280.

All the onus lied on Smith and Petersen to provide South Africa the kind of start they got in the ODIs against India but failed to do it as Ishant Sharma drew first blood by trapping Alviro Petersen in front of off stump, it was an off stump ball that was moving towards middle, he was looking to play that towards midwicket and missed, the umpire lifted the finger immediately. Thus, Petersen's lean run continued. A partnership developed between Amla and Smith before Ishant  got Amla in the 39th over of the South African innings. Amla shouldered arms just to find his off stump knocked back. Ishant managed some sharp inward movement from outside off and Amla had completely misjudged it, or had perhaps expected the bounce to save him. In came Kallis and had to walk back immediately with a golden duck as Sharma got Kallis plumb in front of the wickets. In the very next over, Zaheer hot his bunny, Smith caught in front of the stumps. The ball was full and swung into him rather late. Smith could not adjust to the movement as he hurried to play his flick, missing the ball and after a concerted appeal, the umpire raised the finger. Dhoni brought back Shami in the 45th over and he did just what the doctor ordered. He got the wicket of Duminy of the 1st ball of the over. It was a lovely ball, just full enough and close enough to the off stump to draw him into a stroke and the resulting edge was safely taken by M Vijay. 1 ball later the Indians saw the back of De Villiers as Shami got him trapped in front of the stumps by one that skidded and ducked in off the pitch. Philander and Faf Du Plessis stitched together a good partnership to take the Proteas to 213/6 at the close of play on day 2.


 
 
India won the toss and chose to bat 1st. MS Dhoni said that it looked like a good wicket. The important thing for him was that the batsmen gave themselves some time and got themselves set. India went in with three seamers and a spinner as Ajinkya Rahane and Zaheer Khan came into the XI. He insisted the changing-room atmosphere was good, and it needed to be so whether they won or lost. Graeme Smith wanted to bat as well, but he was hopeful that his bowlers could execute their plans well and lay down a marker at the start of the tour. The pitch looked a little dry to him and he thought there could be some cracks coming into play as the match weared on. He was looking forward to South Africa getting some rhythm after a few stop-start tours. 

Vijay opened his and India's account by hitting a lovely punch down the ground of an overpitched ball which was on the middle stump, Steyn striving to get the ball to move away, but that was too full and eased between the bowler and mid-on for four. The 1st wicket for the Proteas came on the last ball of the 9th over in the form of Dhawan (S Dhawan c Imran Tahir b Steyn 13 runs). The short-ball tactic worked for Dale Steyn. Dhawan went for the pull and he could't middle it, a bit of a top edge as the ball looped towards fine leg, where Tahir snapped it up rather easily. In came Pujara on whom all the onus lied to save India from yet another collapse on this tour of South Africa. Vijay's (M Vijay c †de Villiers b Morkel 6 runs) solid and calm stay ended as his patience to leave balls finished. Morkel bowled a full length ball just outside off stump, Vijay had been letting those go mostly, but he reverted back to old habits of fishing at the ball with no feet, giving Straight forward nick to the keeper. This meant the arrival of India's new no. 4, Virat Kohli with the scoreboard reading 24/2. Kohli raced to his half century in 76 balls with 9 classy fours. Pujara's (CA Pujara run out 25 runs) watchful stay at the crease ended in a most unlikely manner. Kohli sold him down the river and he knowed it. It was a length ball on middle and the batsman tucked it gently towards midwicket and called for the single and took a couple of steps down the pitch before he changed his mind. By that time Pujara had motored his way past the half-way mark and despite Tahir's overly excited throw, the stumps were broken with Pujara nowhere in the frame. Rohit Sharma walked in, with India at 113/3. Sharma (RG Sharma c †de Villiers b Philander 14 runs) lost his patience in the 54th over after a patient innings till then and once again threw away his wicket at a crucial time taking India to 150/4. In came Rahane hitting a magnificent shot to the ropes on the 3rd ball he faced off the bowling of Vernon Philander. Kohli brough up his centrury in the 63rd over of 140 balls only. It was a huge innings for Kohli, he also became the 8th Indian to score a century in South Africa and just the 3rd to score one in Johannesburg. Kallis got Kohli (V Kohli c Duminy b Kallis 119 runs) after some time and this decimated India to 219/5. Kohli was absolutely gutted as he drived the ball straight to Duminy, who wasn't entirely sure if that was out. "Catch," he asked. So against the run of play was that dismissal. It seemed to be a slower ball and Kohli was onto his drive a little too early and the ball simply lobbed to cover. There was warm applause for Kohli from the Indian dressing room as MS Dhoni walked out to the middle. Dhoni and Rahane saw the rest of the overs through and India ended the day at 255/5 with Rahane not out at 43, 7 runs away froma well deserved half-century and Dhoni not out at 17 at the other end.

Hopefully we have a day as competitive as this one tomorrow.
 
 
The morning started with England at 251/5 needing 253 more runs to win their 1st match of the series with only 2 established batsmen left to get out- Ben Stokes and Prior who were on the crease before the close of play on Day 4. It took Australia 18 overs to get their 1st breakthrough of the day, not before Prior and Stokes had added 45 runs to their overnight score. Jhonson bowled a good length ball, wide of the stumps, Prior swished at it and nicked it. There was an audible noise, the ball was just too quick for him, didn't need to play out there but those attacking instincts got the better of him. Bresnan walked in with England still having 72 overs more to play a draw. Ben Stokes brought up England's first century of the series earlier in the day. At lunch England were looking good at 332/6 with Bresnan and Stokes providing the resistance England needed to atleast avoid a defeat if not win the match. Lyon got Stokes caught behind in the 3rd over after lunch and thus ended a marathon knock from Stokes who made 120 runs after spending 256 minutes at the crease. Swann came in with England at 336/7 and chances of avoiding a defeat almost vanished for England. Soon after, Lyon got the better of his rival counterpart Swann. There was a little turn, the ball took the inside edge onto pad and it looped to short leg for a pretty easy dismissal, easy catch it was for Smith and Lyon chipped in again with a useful wicket. This meant the arrival of Stuart Broad , braving his well-strapped boot. In the very next over, Jhonson got the wicket of Bresnan. It was a slower ball, 82mph, Bresnan went forward, pushing hard and presented a chance to Rogers at mid-off who dived and took a fine catch to his right, that was a perfect example of how well Australia have fielded in this series, a marvellous catch it was. So, this took Australia just one wicket away from getting the Urn back at the earliest opportunit, just James Anderson to knock over. Anderson couldnt provide much resistance either getting out in Jhonson's next over completing a 4-wicket inning haul for Jhonson. It was a back of a length ball on the stumps, Anderson squared up and popped up a chance into the leg side which Bailey dived forward to take and hence Australia regained the Ashes. Pace did it for Anderson who got it high on the bat and presented a straightforward catch to Bailey and fittingly it was Mitchell Johnson who finished it off.

Australia have completed the turnaround and a 150-run victory has put them 3-0 up and enough to regain the Ashes for the first time since 2006-07. Mitchell Johnson has a tear in his eye as his celebrates, he has been the difference between these sides and the reason why almost the same teams have produced a markedly different result from the last series. 

Man of the Match went to Steve Smith for that century on day one which set the game up for Australia. He described the knock as the innings of his life. 

So before Christmas, the Ashes are done and dusted and now Australia have the chance to push for another whitewash. But Melbourne and Sydney are two grounds where England have traditionally been more comfortable and they will be desperate to respond having been totally outplayed so far. Australia are on a roll and head to Boxing Day in fine fettle with players in form and confidence high. 
 
 
Australia started the day at their overnight score of 235/3. Jonny Bairstow came on the field for the injured Stuart Broad. Watson signalled his early intent by carting Swann for 2 fours and a six of the 1st over of the day which was bowled by swann. Then again after a few overs, Watson hit 3 sixes and  1 four and once again it was Swann who was at the receving end of some excellent power hitting by Watson. Just One over before the new ball was due, Stokes got the wicket of Smith. The ball was dug in short and Smith picked out deep midwicket on the pull. Smith connected with the shot pretty well but didn't keep it down and sent the ball straight to the man coming in off the fence. This meant the arrival of George Bailey, coming in with Australia at 301/3 looking to make some fast runs and give their bowlers some extra overs to get England out again in the 2nd innings. Watson completed his century off the bowling of Anderson by hitting a four. It was his fourth century and a second in four Ashes Tests. Cook did a bowling change for the next over, bringing in Tim Bresnan, replacing Stokes and Tim Bresnan did what his captain would have wanted. Watson top-edged, high into the sky, but Bell dropped it and then Watson was run out. He'd already given up on the cause when his swipe across the line went almost perpendicular, Bell had ages to settle under it but butchered the catch, only for the alert Bresnan to snatch the ball up, shrug off the disappointment of missing out on a wicket and throw down the stumps at the non-striker's end. Brad Haddin joined Bailey. Bresnan got the better of Haddin in his next over. He bowled a length ball, Haddin hacked across the line, it went a bit further, over the head of point but Swann took a decent catch on the run. Mitch Johnson joined Bailey who was looking calm till now with 11 runs of 24 balls. In the next over, Bailey smashed Anderson for 28 runs with 3 sixes, 2 fours and a double, equalling Brian Lara's Test record and that was enough for Michael Clarke, who called his batsmen in, thus setting England 504 to win.

Ryan Harris had the new ball in hand with Cook facing and Harris did something which no one could have imagined. He bowled the 'Technically Correct' Cook on the 1st ball of the innings. The ball shaped back and flipped the off bail. Cook played a little inside the line, hoping the bounce would save him but it was a terrific ball, hinting at inswing and then nibbling a fraction to ping the bails. It was also Cook's first golden duck in Tests. England seemed to go along weel with a 61 run partnership between Root and Carrberry but then Clarke did a bowling change and like it has been in this whole test, the change worked and Watson produced the goods his captain wanted. The ball was full at the pads, it deflected up to the keeper, there was another appeal and Bowden gave it out. The ball angled in, was very full, and Carberry was late coming down on it and trapped in front of off stump. Another decent little innings from Carberry but no evidence so far that he can take his starts further. It would have been umpire's call on hitting in line, so it was a decent decision from Billy Bowden. Soon afterwards, Jhonson got Root caught behind with England left reeling at on from Billy 76/3. The ball was full and wide, Root chopped down on it and there was a thin edge. It was taken brilliantly by the diving Haddin and Erasmus gave it but the batsman immediately asked for the review. Root possibly thought it was a bump ball, or the effect of the bat thumping into the ground confused him but there was a clear deflection and the decision was upheld. Just when a partnership was budding between Pietersen and Bell, Lyon got Pietersen out. Pietersen came down the wicket and whacked down the ground and it went, high up in the air, Harris was at long-on and he clinged onto a fine catch, that was a right old steepler and Pietersen had gone trying to play another big shot. Yet again, Lyon complimented the Australian seamers really nicely. A good partnership developed between Bell and Stoken before Bell tried to ramp A Peter Siddle ball over the slips and there was a thin sound. Australia were convinced but it was not given by Erasmus and they had to resort to the DRS. There was no visible deflection, nothing on Hot Spot either but Real-Time Snicko detected a small blur of noise in the frame after the ball passes the bat and that was enough for Tony Hill, who overturned the decision. Bell's spritely resistance was thus over. Well, whether there was enough evidence to overrule the on-field call is one for better men/furious online debate. I should say there was a definite sound.  Prior and Stokes saw through the day without any further hiccups with England's score reading 251/5 with the tail going to start afterr the dismissal of any one of the batsmen currently on the crease plus England dont have Broad so they are left with wickets in total to bat with. England now require another 253 runs with 5 wickets remaining.