Centurion is a fort for South Africa – they have been unbeatable on his venue, but in the course of time, things have changed. The South African unit has gone through a transition period and at present, the team as a whole is still searching for a way to become a force to be reckoned which once they were.

In the meantime, their opponent, India are not poor travellers anymore, rather, they strike hard away from home and are the conquerors of the world. Team India has completed the successful year of 2021 – the hoodoo at Centurion has been broken in style by the Men in Blue.

On Day 1, with his fifth Test century outside Asia, KL Rahul led India to a position of dominance in the first Test of the series.

On a flat track, South Africa’s attack, for some reason missing Duanne Olivier, lacked the menace or the discipline to create indecision from the batters. A lot of the questions India’s batting had over them coming into the series were questions posed by extremely tough conditions they almost always play in. The moment they got a good batting pitch, they ended the day at 272 for 3.

Rahul and Mayank Agarwal put together India’s first-century opening stand in South Africa since 2010 before Rahul added two stands worth 82 each with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane.

South Africa managed to draw just 60 false responses in the whole day.

You expect at least one an over from a good attack on a decent Test surface.

Rahul made a forgettable debut on Boxing Day in 2014 but lost his spot to his friend and Karnataka team-mate Agarwal in the 2018 Boxing Day Test.

Three years later, they found themselves opening together in this Boxing Day Test, and their captain won the toss to allow them the first use of a pitch that tends to be at its most challenging in the first and the fourth innings.

In the final exchanges, Rahul calmly spent 12 overs in the 90s, taking singles to get to 99, and then square-driving Maharaj to bring up a hundred in a sixth different country.

Under pressure Rahane found a few Christmas gifts early in the innings, hitting six boundaries in the first 35 balls he faced. The new ball brought no new threat as the two saw India through to stumps.

With the whole second day lost to rain, Centurion practically made up for the time lost with the most wickets it has produced in a day of Test cricket, 18. India lost their last seven wickets in 69 balls, which is not usually considered ideal, but it was just the result they needed as it suggested the pitch had significantly more life in it than on day one.

Mohammed Shami then led India’s bowling – missing Jasprit Bumrah for 49 overs because of an ankle injury – with his second first-innings five-for in Test cricket to give India a lead of 130.

What resulted was the second-quickest collapse in Test cricket (where fall-of-wicket information is available) in terms of a number of balls, when the first four wickets of a team had batted 90 overs or more. India’s first new ball looked just as lethal with four wickets falling in the first 13 overs before the pitch settled down enough for South Africa to recover from 32 for 4 to end up with 197.

Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi caused the havoc early doors, hitting the pitch hard and drawing the inconsistent bounce and then Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Mumrah nailed the hosts.

On Day 4, India’s irresistible seam attack worked its way around a stubborn Dean Elgar and left the visitors six wickets away from victory at SuperSport Park. In pursuit of 305, South Africa were 94 for 4 at close on a track that was still offering sideways movement.

More than that, it was the uneven bounce that posed an ever-present threat to the batters.

Bumrah got balls to kick up from a length, Shami from a short of a length and Siraj from various lengths. Late in the day, a length ball from Shardul Thakur rolled through at shin height, but Elgar stooped low enough to keep it out.

Rabada and Marco Jansen had thrived earlier in the day, sharing eight wickets between them to bowl India out for 174 from an overnight 16 for 1.

It was Pant, who top-scored for India, with a run-a-ball 34, swelling the lead beyond 300.

At 12.50 pm on the final day of Test cricket in the year, they finished conquering Centurion, South Africa’s best venue, consigning them to only their third defeat in 27 Tests there.

India’s complete and deep attack provided a resolute South African batting no respite and kept coming at them until the pitch yielded or the batters made a mistake, beating them by 113 runs despite a whole day’s play lost to rain and more showers expected on the final day.

South Africa began the day needing 211 runs with six wickets in hand, but the only realistic tussle was between India and time. The forecast suggested rain could interrupt the final session, and led by a cussed Dean Elgar, South Africa would have wanted to last till then and then take it from there.

But, India never let South Africa settle down and took the lead.

This is the third Test defeat for South Africa at the SuperSport Park in Centurion, where they played 27 Test matches and won 21. Their previous two Test losses at this ground came against England in 2000 and against Australia in 2014.

While this was India’s fourth Test win in South Africa – Two of those wins came in Johannesburg, in 2006 and 2018, and the others in Durban in 2010 and in Centurion in 2021.

Above all, 3 Consecutive wins for India in Boxing Day Tests, having defeated Australia in Melbourne in 2018 and 2020. India won only one of their 14 Boxing Day Tests before this streak – against South Africa in Durban in 2010.

“You need runs to compete and it’s safe to say we didn’t get that in our first innings,” Elgar said.

“They bowled well with the new ball and the nature of Test cricket is that you’ve got to compete against the new ball. The way they started was something we struggled against. We know what it’s like scoring 250-plus runs here.”

“Playing four or five-day cricket is something you can’t replace but the schedule doesn’t allow for our players to play a lot of first-class cricket. So there’s a little bit of (a lack of) match awareness and match fitness. It’s by no means an excuse. We knew that coming into the series. There’s a lot of learning for us that the basics of the game still applies. I don’t think we had that with regards to the batting.”

“In Test cricket facing the new ball and opening is not easy. You get a good ball and you go and sit and watch the rest of the game. That’s the nature of the beast. Aiden and I have had the rough of the green but we are very mindful that we need to start well.”

“I don’t think we’ll lack any confidence heading into Johannesburg but it’s never nice losing a game especially when we know where we went wrong. It’s difficult to correct those wrongs during a game, but building into the second Test, we’ll have some time to reflect around what has happened.”

The winning skipper Kohli said, “It’s a top start for us. We have to understand one day was washed out. That shows how well we played. It’s always a difficult place to play against South Africa. We got so much confidence out of Johannesburg last time. It’s a ground we love playing at.”

“The discipline that the batters showed… Winning the toss, batting first overseas is a tough challenge.”

“We knew we were in pole position with anything over 300-320. We have a lot of belief in our bowling unit and knew the bowlers will get the job done.”

“Very, very happy for him to get 200 wickets and have an impactful performance,” Kohli said of Shami at the post-match presentation.

“He is absolutely world-class talent. For me, he’s in the best three seamers in the world at the moment. His strong wrist, his seam position and his ability to hit a length consistently…”

adsense

Note: Input from ESPNcricinfo

 

Facebook Comments