Shardul Thakur produced a memorable spell at Wanderers on Tuesday as he registered the best bowling figures ever for India in Test match cricket against South Africa.

Thakur made his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket an even more special one as he helped India bowl SA out for 229 in Johannesburg, finishing with 17.5-3-61-7. After the hosts had made a fine start to the day’s play, the Mumbaikar ran through their batting line-up with.

It started with the wicket of SA captain Dean Elgar, who had resisted the best efforts of the lead Indian pacers and then Keegan Petersen who struck a fine half-century. He had three before lunch, albeit controversially dismissing Rassie van der Dussen. And once again when a partnership was building later on, Thakur came on to dismiss Kyle Verreynne and Temba Bavuma in quick succession, to complete his five-for.

He finished things off with the wickets of Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi.

Resuming at the overnight score of 35 for one, South Africa added 53 runs before losing skipper Dean Elgar for 28 but Petersen held the other end, scoring 62 off 118 balls.

The visitors were all out for 202 in their first innings. South Africa took a first innings lead of 27 runs over India.

The previous best bowling performance for India in men’s Test cricket against South Africa was another 7-for, clinched by R Ashwin in Nagpur in 2016. In women’s Test matches, Harmanpreet Kaur holds the record with a 5/44 in Mysore in 2014.

India's best figures in Tests vs SA

Player Overs Mdns Runs Wkts Econ Inns Opposition Ground Start Date
Shardul Thakur 17.5 3 61 7 3.42 2 v South Africa Johannesburg 3 Jan 2022
R Ashwin 29.5 7 66 7 2.21 4 v South Africa Nagpur 25 Nov 2015
Harbhajan Singh 30.0 3 87 7 2.90 3 v South Africa Kolkata 28 Nov 2004
Harbhajan Singh 38.0 1 120 7 3.15 3 v South Africa Cape Town 2 Jan 2011
R Ashwin 46.2 11 145 7 3.12 2 v South Africa Visakhapatnam 2 Oct 2019

It was also the first time in Thakur’s first-class cricket career (domestic+International multi-day cricket) that he picked up a seven-wicket haul.

Shardul Thakur's best bowling figures (innings)

Format BBI
Test 7/61
ODI 4/52
T20I 4/27
FC 7/61
List A 4/19
T20 4/27

Thakur’s 7/61 is also the best ever figures for an Indian pacer who came on to bowl as the second-change bowler in a Test innings. In Test cricket history, for pacers introduced into the attack as second change and beyond, Thakur’s figures are the sixth best.

Here are some more stats from the spell:

Brief Scores:

India 1st innings: 202 all out in 63.1 overs. (Mayank Agarwal 26, KL Rahul 50; Duanne Olivier 3/64, Marco Jansen 4/31, Kagiso Rabada 3/64).

South Africa 1st innings: 229 all out in 79.4 overs (Keegan Petersen 62; Shardul Thakur 7/61).