The South African side that was dubbed to be one of the weakest in recent times, have made a staggering comeback against the best Test team in the world – India. They were battered in the first Test, but still, regrouped and managed to bag the series by scripting back-to-back victories at Johannesburg and Cape Town.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 14, 2022
After the one-sided contest at Centurion, the last two Test matches turned out to be a high-voltage contest and at Cape Town, it was a heated one, where tempers flowed.
On Day 1, South Africa bundled out India for 223 on a deck that tested the batters to their limits. But Virat Kohli was the lone fighter and scored a patient 79 off 201 balls.
He walked out at a time when South Africa’s bowlers were producing one false shot every four balls. India were 33 for 2 and under siege. To survive a situation like that, you need clarity of thought and conviction of method. Kohli displayed both. He left 64.7%, of his first 100 deliveries, outside the off stump. In the last five years, over 1100 innings, only four batters have ever been more restrained.
It took him 15 balls to get off the mark but he didn’t mind. He waited for his chance – a long half-volley from Marco Jansen – and he cashed in. That’s how he got all the 13 boundaries that studded his innings, including a big booming drive past mid-off to get to his half-century.
The final frontier remains strong #INDvsSAF
— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) January 14, 2022
This was a sharp change in mindset from the way he played (and got out) in Centurion, one that was enabled by a subtle change in technique. Sunil Gavaskar was quick to spot it on the broadcast. The former India captain said of the current India captain that his front foot was now moving down the pitch in a straighter line. In the first Test, because he was looking to play at everything, his front foot kept moving too far across, taking him towards stuff that he had no business getting close to.
Here, Kohli was determined to make South Africa’s bowlers come at him. And it worked. He played only 16 false shots in 201 deliveries. That count for the rest of the team: 48 in 271.
Now that is what u call Protea Fire!!!
— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) January 14, 2022
Obviously, it was another day in a Test match, where Kagiso Rabada smiled with the ball – running in. Banging the deliveries at a deceptive pace, Exposed the edge. Breached the defence. Rib-snoters were always around the corner. He was well aided by Marco Jansen who had been proving his sharpness with each delivery in the Test series.
Jasprit Bumrah chimed in as well, picking up the wicket of Dean Elgar late in the first day.
On Day 2, Bumrah put up a great show with the ball that helped India take a slender lead in such a competitive Test series.
Bumrah’s Test career speaks directly to their dramatic transformation away from home – not that their standards on home soil have exactly suffered in recent times.
He’s playing his 24th Test out of 27 away from home, and now boasts a stunning haul of 112 wickets at 22.58, including each of his seven five-fors, a tally that no bowler has surpassed since that 2018 debut.
For the first hour of his innings on a baking-hot morning at Newlands, Petersen had set his sights purely on survival. With Maharaj providing a measure of impetus in a doughty stay as nightwatchman, Petersen had just six runs from 42 balls by drinks, all the while buoyed by the memories of his breakthrough fifty at the Wanderers last week, in a similarly low-scoring tussle.
He needed some luck to make it that far, however, including when KL Rahul failed to wrap his fingers round a low edge to third slip on four. But when Umesh Yadav’s scrambled seam burst through Maharaj’s loose drive to bowl him for 25 just before the hour mark, Petersen took his cue for a controlled counterattack.
That win for South Africa vs India deserves many, many, many headlines and praise.
— Ian “ Ja Mo” Bishop (@irbishi) January 14, 2022
With Rassie van der Dussen now taking his turn to drop anchor, Petersen cashed in on a fractional slackening of India’s extreme discipline, with six fours flowing from the next nine overs, including four exceptionally placed carves through the off side when offered a fraction of width, and a flick off the toes through midwicket off Shardul Thakur. Even R Ashwin, typically economical in an understated nine overs of deployment, couldn’t escape Petersen’s flood of confidence as he reverse-swept the third ball he faced past backward point.
In consecutive overs before lunch, the pair brought up both their fifty stands and South Africa’s 100.
But van der Dussen’s poise vanished during the 40-minute interval. He could have run himself out twice straight after the break, but instead fell for 21 to a scuffed drive off Yadav, with Kohli at second slip clinging onto a fast-flying edge.
India a far better team than SL side that won a series in South Africa. That makes their win even more special. That too Amla, Faf, Philander and Steyn playing. Only 3 teams have won a series in South Africa where Test cricket has been played since 1889; England, Australia and SL
— Rex Clementine (@RexClementine) January 14, 2022
Petersen, however, found another important ally in Temba Bavuma.
But on 28, and moments after the fourth and final bullet boundary of his innings, Bavuma was undone as Shami dragged his length back for Kohli to cling onto his 100th Test catch at second slip, and when Kyle Verreynne dangled his bat loosely two balls later to depart for a duck, South Africa were 159 for 6, and back in a heap of trouble.
Then Bumrah took over.
For three consecutive overs, he tormented Jansen in the channel outside off, then did for Petersen with some extra lift into the heel of the bat. And despite some long-handled resistance from the tail, most particularly Rabada, he would not be denied his first five-for since the Trent Bridge Test in August last year, as Lungi Ngidi looped a leading edge into the covers.
At stumps, India were 70 for 2!
The Day 3 was about Rishabh Pant!
Pant is a shot-maker of such quality that he can take the conditions out of the equation, and for 100 runs and 139 balls in Cape Town, he did just that. This wasn’t so much a Test match innings as it was a display of jaw-dropping daredevilry. And at the end of it, India had a lead of 211 and a real chance at making history.
South Africa, who to their immense credit finished 101 for 2, were under siege in the chase, not just from the bowlers but from a very chirpy Virat Kohli.
Was it the right decision? ?
Shaun Pollock and Sunil Gavaskar discuss the use of hawkeye after Umpire adjudged Dean Elgar out lbw but reversed his decision as the tracking technology showed the ball going over the wicket… pic.twitter.com/k9w9ajisE1
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) January 13, 2022
Once, when he was running across from one end of the field to the other, he looked at Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen and said, “Relax guys. I can hear your heartbeat.”
So began a remarkably combative last 29.4 overs of play and it peaked in the 21st.
R Ashwin to Elgar. He bowls a beautiful offbreak. Tossed up from around the wicket, drifting in late, drifting in big. The left-hander prepares to nudge the ball into the leg side. He brings down a straight bat. But this drift. It is too much. It takes the ball clean past the inside edge and hits him on the front pad.
Umpire Marais Erasmus puts the finger up immediately. But ball-tracking told a different story. Bouncing over leg stump.
Ashwin was completely unimpressed.
“Find better ways to win, SuperSport,” he said. Kohli was livid. He took an almighty kick at the turf, then walked right up to the stump mic and said, “focus on your team as well while they shine the ball, eh?”
Not just the opposition.
“Trying to catch people all the time, “KL Rahul chimed in with “whole country playing against 11 guys.”
India were rage-mode. Elgar did so very well to resist them but he couldn’t hold out. The South African captain fell off what turned out to be the last ball of the day.
Before the heated moments, everyone enjoyed while Pant was batting out there.
Pant walked out after two quick wickets – Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane undone by extra bounce. And within seven balls he was smelling leather. Kagiso Rabada decided to test him with the short ball but Pant was ready. He rocked back and pulled South Africa’s pace ace to the square leg boundary to get off the mark.
All the frustration… anger, verbal outburst and insinuation was ok… but blaming the whole nation South Africa by one player was not correct… that was going too far… #SAvsIND
— Shahid Hashmi (@hashmi_shahid) January 14, 2022
There were other shots like that too. Shots straight out of a dream. 34th over. A down the track slap off Duanne Olivier that was all kinds of impudent. 48th over. A one-handed slog sweep. For six. 60th over. A flay over the point that didn’t fetch a single run but will still make the highlights because he went so hard at it that he lost the grip on his bat and it went flying.
Pant defied logic for every second he was out there.
He became the first wicketkeeper from Asia to score a hundred in the rainbow nation.
On Day 5, India failed to create an impact and South Africa essayed a seven-wicket victory.
Keegan Petersen was the man who took the game away from the visitors.
The man is an ideal blend of grave and compactness.
Biggest positives for South Africa after the #SAvIND Test series
1. Keegan Petersen securing the number 3 spot
2. Marco Jansen vindicating his selection
3. Rabada finding his groove again
4. South Africa successfully chasing over 200 twice
5. They WON#cricket
— ThePoppingCrease (@PoppingCreaseSA) January 14, 2022
Shami was swinging into him, trying to cramp him. He saw it early. So he had the time to plant his front foot forward – but not too far – and angle it away so that it wouldn’t impede the flow of a straight bat coming down on the ball.
There was no anger in the shot. He seems to reserve that for his offside play, especially when he decides to go on the back foot. The cuts through point and punches through cover really do leave a mark.
Assisting Petersen were Rassie van der Dussen, with his low backlift designed for the express purpose of protecting his stumps, and Temba Bavuma, the first Black African batter to score a Test match century for South Africa. That was back in January 2016. He’s come close a few times – a seventy here, an eighty there – but it’s been six years and he hasn’t added to that count. He’s still only got one century in 47 Test matches.
South Africa have kept the faith in him though. They’re a side in transition. They need senior players to guide them through it. And on Day 5, Bavuma was the steadying hand that repelled one of the fiercest sides in international cricket. He struck two outstanding boundaries in one Bumrah over to end a spell where South Africa made just five runs in seven overs.
A morale-boosting victory for a side that is going through a transition – perhaps, the better days for them are coming up.
Note: Input from ESPNcricinfo