The elements and finally a fiery Dale Steyn denied Murali Vijay a well-deserved fourth Test century. After making good use of the batting conditions at Kingsmead and showing some commendable patience and technique, Vijay missed his first overseas hundred by just three runs after the first session on Day 2 of the Durban Test was lost to the damp weather on Friday. Trying to fend off a Dale Steyn thunderbolt that lifted disconcertingly, the opener gloved the ball to wicket-keeper AB De Villiers, who took a smart catch diving to his left.
The 29-year-old Vijay was left stranded on 91 (India 181/1 after 61 overs) (SCORECARD) when bad light ended play early on Thursday. Vijay's first three centuries have come at home. He had scored back-to-back hundreds against Australia at Hyderabad (167) and Mohali (153) in March this year. His maiden century (139) also came against the Aussies in October 2010 in Bangalore. If Vijay had scored a century in Durban, he would have joined current teammates Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara as the only ones to have scored a hundred away from the sub-continent. Interestingly, Wasim Jaffer (116 at Cape Town in 2007) still remains the only Indian opener to score a Test century in South Africa.
Vijay validated Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to bat after winning the toss. (HIGHLIGHTS) Although India lost Shikhar Dhawan early (41/1 in the 14th over), Vijay handled the South African attack with patience. On a dry and firm Durban wicket, Vijay did not play a false stroke and capitalized on his front-foot drives to score most of his runs. He took 102 balls to score his fourth career 50 and 44 of those runs came off boundaries. Vijay's discipline to go behind the line of the ball and play close to his body helped against a swinging ball. (Vijay showed patience: Gavaskar)
Vijay had failed to score big in the first Test at Johannesburg last week. He scored 6 and 39 on a seaming track. On both occasions, he edged to the wicketkeeper, clearly indicating his vulnerability to a fast and moving ball. However, in Durban, Vijay found the pace much to his liking. Compared to Wanderers, the Kingsmead track looked comparatively flatter and that allowed Vijay to adapt quickly. With every over, Vijay got confident although he played and missed a few and the pacy back-of-length delivery often left him gasping.
The Kingsmead wicket seemed to have more juice on Friday. Steyn and Morne Morkel steamed in every delivery and Cheteshwar Pujara (70) was the first to go, edging Steyn to De Villiers. The old ball reversed, swung and even lifted. Vijay (97 off 226 balls, 18 x 4s) was made to work hard for every run and finally, Steyn had the last laugh. More than the runs, Vijay and Pujara handled the conditions very well and saw the shine off the new ball on Thursday. Interestingly, the Day 1 Durban pitch was unusually stingless and looked more like a sub-continental track. Vijay and Pujara produced a solid 157 runs for the second wicket, a partnership that will stand India in good stead if the Rain Gods allow the match to go its full distance.