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Cape of lost hope

Visitors fail to defend modest target as top order resilience helps South Africa revive fortunes in Test cricket

Published: 15th January 2022 07:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2022 07:59 AM   |  A+A-

Indian captain Virat Kohli congratulates Rassie van Der Dussen after South Africa beat India in Cape Town on Friday to win the Test series 2-1 | AP

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  On Thursday, large parts of India woke up to the smell of burning rubber and wood. That’s how the country celebrates Lohri/Bhogi. Tradition states that families burn all unwanted/old items in their households. The accepted funda is they bid goodbye to winter.

The Indian cricket team was hoping to celebrate their own version of Lohri at Newlands in Cape Town 24 hours later. They had never won in three decades of touring South Africa. They were seeking to burn that unwanted distinction and to start a new chapter for Indian cricket.

When dawn broke at Newlands on Friday morning, they needed eight wickets. On a pitch where collapses are usually the norm, the visitors believed they could condemn that to the record books. It was, they thought, destiny. For a side that had won twice in Australia and have a series lead in England since losing a series here in 2018, you could even argue that belief wasn’t misplaced. 

With a pace battery rivalling the best in the business against a relatively inexperienced middle-order, their Nos 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 have, together played 72 Tests, they knew they had the necessary weapons to trigger a collapse. Even if the hosts had only 111 runs to chase, they were still slight underdogs when the first session began. Even if India didn’t lose the match because of what transpired in that session, they could easily have made a fist of it on another day. The scoreboard will tell you that the visitors won by seven wickets but that hides more than it reveals.

Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were on the sweet spot from the very first ball. They challenged the outside edge repeatedly, with both the away-swingers and the in-duckers. Both Keegan Petersen, whose offside strokeplay again caught the eye, and Rassie van der Dussen, who showed admirable gumption and fight to stay till the end, repeatedly survived close calls. You could call it luck but what they did really well was to forget what they did the last ball. Some batters tend to overthink situations, play the bowler and don’t forget close calls.

The South African batters — even during the chase in the fourth innings of the second Test at Wanderers — didn’t do that. If a ball beat the bat, they didn’t let that situation affect their thinking a ball later. Even though they lost Petersen before lunch, a cute unbeaten cameo by Temba Bavuma finished the contest early into the second session.  From a bigger perspective, this series win could start a new cycle for South African cricket. Make no mistake, this was a result that few had predicted before the first ball was delivered. 

And the chances of a comeback looked minuscule when Quinton de Kock announced a shock retirement from the longest format before the second Test. 

Scoreboard

India 1st innings: 223; South Africa 1st innings: 210; India 2nd innings: 198 lost to South Africa 2nd innings 212/3 in 63.3 ovs: Markram c Rahul b Shami 16, Elgar c Pant b Bumrah 30, Petersen b Thakur 82, Dussen 41 n.o, Bavuma 32 n.o. Extras: (lb8, nb3) 11; FoW: 23/1, 101/2, 155/3; Bowling: Bumrah 17-5-54-1, Shami 15-3-41-1, Yadav 9-0-36-0, Thakur 11-3-22-1, Ashwin 11.3-1-51-0.



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