This series had all the makings of a classic. The drama, the intensity, the tension, the stump mic chatter, the sledging – it was all so palpable. In the end, it was the home team that emerged triumphant, rising from the dust of defeat to the glory of victory. They were up against the No.1 Test team in the world, it wasn’t going to be easy. Yet, they refused to budge.
Take a bow, Dean Elgar and co.
India’s quest for a Test series win in South Africa remains unfulfilled.
What worked for South Africa
South Africa were jolted with a 113-run loss in the series opener at Centurion. It was the announcement of India’s arrival in Protea land. They were here to win, it was loud and clear. But in an inspired turnaround, the hosts went on to win back-to-back Tests, with the exact same margin – 7 wickets. In both Tests, their bowlers didn’t allow the Indian batsmen to cross the 300-run mark in both innings respectively, heck they made 200 seem like an uphill task. Such was the impact of South Africa’s fiery pace battery, even without Anrich Nortje.
It wasn’t just their bowlers who did all the hard work, but also the batting line-up – right from the openers to the middle order – something that India would be envious of and lacked right from the onset. They were perfect on the field too, taking all the catches that came their way. They also gave India the dubious distinction of being the first team to have lost all 20 wickets in a Test to ‘caught out’.
What didn’t work for India
For all the on-field aggression, verbal slander and pinpointing, India were way off the mark, underperforming in all departments. Wickets were thrown away at the drop of a hat, regulation catches were dropped, and there just weren’t enough runs for the bowlers to defend. Barring a few performances here and there, it was a rather disappointing series for India from an overall perspective.
For far too long, India have depended heavily on their opening batsmen to do the grinding and lay the foundation. But when that doesn’t happen, it puts immense pressure on the middle order, which makes them all the more susceptible to losing the plot. Add to it the never-ending, perpetually long wait for Virat Kohli’s 71st hundred along with a couple of horribly-out-of-form batsmen – and the recipe for disaster is complete.
Nobody, except former South African cricketers and fans, gave the hosts an outside chance of winning this series. But they have done with full conviction, with emerging superstars and breaking some really serious stereotypes.
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the 3rd Test:
The Player of the Match and Player of the Series, Keegan Petersen stood between India and victory in the 3rd Test. Despite not getting enough support from the other end, the young batter showcased remarkable resilience and made a well-paced 72 in the 1st innings. Continuing his sensational run in the series, the 28-year-old again played a stellar knock and made 82 in the 2nd. Petersen finished as the highest run-getter of the Test series, gathering 276 runs in 3 Tests with 3 fifties.
Rishabh Pant has a lot to learn surely, but he’s already earned mad respect just for being himself, whatever the conditions may be. Sometimes, it has paid off. Other times, it hasn’t. But whenever India have needed a saviour with the bat, Pant’s name has been at the forefront of late. 3 of his 4 Test centuries have come outside India – in England, Australia and South Africa. It is some validation of his talent, especially when the rest of the team has failed to even get going.
If Keegan Petersen tormented India with the bat in hand, Kagiso Rabada did the same in the bowling department. Playing his 50th Test , Rabada spit venom with the red cherry and never allowed the Indian batters to score freely. He scalped a four-fer in India’s first innings and backed it up with a three-wicket haul, putting South Africa in command.
Stats and Milestones
- Rishabh Pant became the 1st overseas wicketkeeper-batter to slam Test centuries in Australia, England and South Africa
- Kagiso Rabada equaled Allan Donald for the joint-second most wickets (20) by a South African bowler against India in a home Test series
What next for both teams?
Both teams will now lock horns in a 3-match ODI series, starting January 19. In the absence of new-white ball captain Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul will lead India, while Temba Bavuma will captain the Proteas side.