The Indian team lost the series in South Africa yet again. Men in Blue have never won a Test series in South Africa. This was probably the best chance for them to win the series and create history. The Protea team was comparatively less experienced, and with India going with a full-strength squad, everyone expected India to win the series.
Breaching the Protea fortress at Centurion, India started well. Top-order contributed significantly, bowlers did a fabulous job. Looked like the expected thing will turn into a reality. In addition to this, the sudden retirement of the most experienced Quinton De Cock from the Protea team added to the Men in Blue's chances of winning. But the Protea team came back stronger than ever and won both the remaining games, sealing the series. When no one expected them to win a match, they won the freedom series. So what exactly went wrong for Men in Blue ??
The answer is simple. The only thing which was different for both sides was their middle order. The difference in the way Protea batters played and Indian batters played was visible to everyone. The inexperienced Protea middle order played sensibly in the second and third test match, something which the experienced Indian order couldn't capitalise.
The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been an integral part of the squad for a long time and were selected ahead of youngsters only based on their experience. But they proved the decision of selectors wrong. Indeed their contribution in 2 nd test match was vital, but barring that one, they couldn't be of any great help for Men in Blue. With Pujara out of form in the first match, he managed to get in good touch in the last two matches. But Rahane is throwing wickets after getting started, a recurring story since the past year.
Furthermore, the top order hasn't contributed much either. Barring the first match, the top order has failed to deliver. All in all, everyone has failed to deliver what they were expected to. Barring the hundred by Rahul, 79 by Virat and century by Pant, none of the innings was worth praise. The result of which was a low score to defend the bowlers.
No matter how good the bowling lineup you have, if you cannot have a good total, the lineup will be under pressure. In addition to this, the bowlers are asked to bowl for the 4th innings on the 3rd day itself, which is why they couldn't harness the pitch which could favour them on the 5th day. Our bowlers have breathed fire, but our batters have failed brutally. India has managed to overcome their biggest concern of pace bowling, but their strength batting has lacked the potential. Once a team known for batting is not able to post good scores of above 300 regularly. The real reason for India's failure is our batting.
On the contrary, the Protea batters have batted their heart out. They adapted to the conditions well. The first match was a lesson to them, and the mistakes they did in the first match were not repeated by them again. With Elgar leading from the front in 2nd test, they lead to a convincing victory. Also, with a strong top order and middle order, they outplayed the world-class Indian bowler. It's not like the bowlers didn't target good length, but the Protea batters had answers to bowlers fire with caution.
The inexperienced, yet determined Protea batting line-up has impressed many. Keegan Peterson is one of the many names that have grabbed attention. The highest run-getter in the series is a treat to watch. His class was visible on the first ball of the series he played against Bumrah in the first match when he defended the ball beautifully with elbow up. He was beautifully capitalising the slightest of room on the up on the offside. He needs to improve his technique for the fuller length, but looking at the moment, he looks good.
Also, Marco Jenson and Lungi Ngidi have played well in the series. For South Africa, it is a complete team effort. The likes of Rabada, Jenson and Ngidi have done their job with the ball perfectly, and Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Van der Russen and Peterson have done adapted quickly, recovering from their mistakes to take their side to a victory. This young Protea side had the home advantage, but have made a statement to not take them lightly. And with the likes of Peterson and Jansen, the future of South Africa in tests look good.
Apart from both the team's performance, the DRS played a vital role. The lbw of Elgar off Ashwin declined by the Ball tracker was a shock to everyone including the umpire Erasmus. The frustration of Indian players was visible and understandable, but there has to be a limit to showing the emotion. Just like the Aussies always crossing the line, Virat and his men did it this time. There is no doubt that technology needs to be better, yet the behaviour of players needs to be checked by the boards regularly.
To conclude, the series victory was a well-deserving one for the Proteas. They played their heart out, improved from the previous game, adapted well, did not make repeated mistakes, and eventually, they emerged victoriously. On the other side, you have to feel for the Indian bowlers. But speaking of the batters, they need to learn the way Proteas did, and up their game. It was not a series to remember for Indians, and they would like to forget it and move on. But, will the quality India has, they will rise, rise in tests in the next tour, and in the ODI's against Proteas where they will try to avenge the test series defeat.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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