The number one Test side in the world was gunned down by South Africa and for which, the Indian team has come under fire. Their such a capitulation was not without obvious reasons.
Make no mistake, the Centurion Test was a humdinger on an un-South African wicket. In fact, it was every bit Indian that Morne Morkel fumed at the state of his home turf.
“One hundred percent, yes [sub-continental wicket]. It’s unheard of that a spinner bowls that amount of overs on the first day. We even took the option to open in the over before lunch with a spinner. There’s a very sub-continental feel to it. It is tough to score, and tough to get people out. Luckily we’ve got some experience of that in the bank. But they are not the conditions that we want here in South Africa”, Morkel had said.
Yet at the end of the Test, it was the hosts which once again surged ahead and the 135 run difference on this surface was a chasm India, World’s no.1 Test side, wouldn’t have liked. The series depended on India’s performance here at Centurion. They had all the stars aligned in their favour, yet lost by a huge margin. Here we work out five key moments that pegged India back in their bid to level the series.
There is no one word to describe the farce that India’s selections have been in recent times. At Cape Town, they kept out their most prolific Test batsman abroad – Ajinkya Rahane – and the travesty continued at Centurion although they did make it an even bigger fiasco by keeping out their best bowler from the first Test, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Bhuvneshwar even faced the most number of balls by an Indian in the first Test and citing ‘horses for courses’ and keeping out your best bowler was absolute rubbish. Whatever the justifications Kohli gives in his retortive, indignant Press conference, there is little to justify his pathetic selection calls.
Once you have selected your XI, even if it is not the best you have at your disposal, you need to believe that the selected few justify the call. India did not. Parthiv Patel, a forced selection in place of the injured Wriddhiman Saha, dropped Hashim Amla when he was on 30. We all know what happens when you drop Amla (Remember the epic 311 in England when he was dropped on 40?).
Parthiv Patel has dropped nine catches off the four Tests he played since 2016/17 season. Wriddhiman Saha has dropped only four in the 17 where he kept wickets. #SAvIND
— Deepu Narayanan (@deeputalks) January 14, 2018
A triple hundred did not ensue but his 82 added crucial runs to South Africa’s total. Then Pandya went on to drop another (with Shami jumping in between being the culprit) and Kohli dropped one too. Parthiv added one more to his tally when he let off Faf du Plessis on 54. In all, India conceded 87 extra runs in the first innings courtesy dropped chances.
Parthiv Patel prove that he should not the part of this India team he drop 3catch in one match, great selection by captain @bhogleharsha
— Rohit (@Rohitcri1) January 14, 2018
Of course, there was some stunning ground fielding by Pandya and co covering up for their shoddy catching but just imagine this – if South Africa were bowled out for 248 (minus the extra 87 they conceded), would this Test have turned another way? A definite possibility.
Pandya’s schoolboy error
For all the swagger and authority he displays, Hardik Pandya is still a newbie in International cricket and proved the same with a rookie mistake, one which school kids are warned against making, when he did not ground in his bat while attempting a run.
— Waѕiyullah Budye (@WasiyullahB) January 15, 2018
Vernon Philander threw down the stumps but there was little celebration. South Africa did not expect a Test batsman to not ground in his bat but instead wall in lazily hoping that his feet would cross that crease before the ball thudded into the stumps. It didn’t. Pandya was gone much to the dismay of a stranded Virat Kohli at the other end, who was stitching together his pre-match mistakes with a spectacular hundred.
Virat Kohli had called out for more intent from his batsmen post the Cape Town loss. He might well have aimed every one of his sentences at Pujara who got stuck at the crease and played out balls and time rather than make runs.
Pujara seemed to be in a hurry to prove to his skipper that he had it in him to play with a positive intent. In the first innings, he pushed one to mid-on off the first ball he faced, set off for a non-existent single only to watch debutant Lungi Ngidi throw down the stumps with utmost ease to catch him short. A golden duck does not do justice to the intent he showed.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) January 17, 2018
In the second, he appeared calmer and more composed until he didn’t deny a third run when Parthiv Patel called him through. The fielder was AB de Villiers. There is a lesson in modern day cricket. When you see de Villiers with the ball in hand, you don’t run, especially if you have dodgy knees.
Pujara ran. He ran like a hare or so he thought. de Villiers’ throw was as accurate as they get from the boundary ropes. Quinton de Kock was faster than a lightning in breaking the stumps. Pujara was run-out yet again, the first time an Indian batsman had run himself out twice in a Test.
Kohli’s poor call as a skipper
The biggest boon for a fast bowler is knowing that his captain backs him. Mohammad Shami, though, had no clue as to why Kohli had bowled him for just one over post the lunch break in South Africa’s second innings. He had bowled his heart out in the first session, taking three South African wickets – not any wickets; that of AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock – and yet found himself fielding near the ropes for majority of the next session as Faf du Plessis and Vernon Philander blocked their way to push India out of the Test match.
It was a bizarre call, a weird one, an absolutely humungous blunder. du Plessis and Philander showed little ‘intent’. Yet, in a session reminiscent of South Africa’s blockathon, their skipper led them to a target that had never been achieved in Centurion before.