Led By Captain Elgar South Africa Show The Best Batting Display Of The Test Series Beating An Overconfident India By 7 Wickets!

 


South Africa captain Dean Elgar (96 not out) led from the front to clinch what finally turned out to be an easy victory over India in the second Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg and level the 3-match Test Series 1-1. It is rather unfortunate that Dean could not complete what would have been a most memorable century, particularly in light of the fact that this win has ended India’s streak of 5 consecutive Test victories over the Proteas that started at the Wanderers in 2018 and later at Indian venues. The South Africa chase, interrupted by rains on the fourth day, is perhaps the best batting display in this series so far with every batsman contributing and partnerships blossoming throughout. Dean crafted an opening stand of 47 runs with Markram (31); 46-run partnership with Peterson (28); 82-run partnership with Rassie van der Dussen (40); and finally, an unbeaten 68-run partnership with Bavuma (23 not out). This is third biggest chase by any team at the Wanderers that proved many a critic or commentator wrong.

 

Observing the proceedings of the first three innings of this Test it was accepted by most cricket experts and lovers as a low-scoring match and that any target above 200 runs was going to be very tough for South Africa. They were perhaps also influenced by the fact that India never lost at this venue registering their two first-ever victories here of the 5 tests played 3 of which were drawn, and that there were similarities between the two Tests with Dean again fighting hard in 2018 for a losing chase. Add to this the incredible 7-wicket haul of Shardul Thakur that restricted the hosts to 229 in the first innings thus limiting the lead to mere 27 runs. However, hardly anybody noticed that the scoring rate in this match had been  quite high and that the most of the Indian batsmen showed undue aggression which in a way proved that the pitch did not have any possible scares for the team chasing in the fourth innings.

 

Photo: espncricinfo.com

Such was the complacency and overconfidence among the cricket commentators after India set a target of 240 runs that one Indian commentator said with a lot of emphasis that South Africa will have to score 11 runs more in the last innings that they did in their first innings; but his counterpart rightfully observed that India too did score 64 more runs in the second innings than in their first innings. This sense of complacency and overconfidence obviously infected Team India which was more or less confirmed by the near-mad behavior demonstrated by the newly appointed vice-captain Jasprit Bumrah when he came in to bat in the second innings. Despite Hanuma Vihari gallantly defending his crease (40 not out) Bumrah played wildly as if he wanted to hit the ball out of the ground or get out which was as ugly as it was absurd, because in recent times he did contribute valuable runs for his team, becoming a much better batsman. Shardul Thakur played a great quickfire innings of 28 runs that saw India cross the 200-run mark; but again, the logic behind his aggression points out the same thing. There was absolutely no hurry here compared to the rain-affected Centurion Test with more than two days for the hosts to chase.

 

With the Indian lower order upon which the team consistently depends nowadays playing more sensibly India could have moved closer to a 300-run target. In this crucial second innings the top order failed, KL Rahul getting out for 8 runs and Mayank Agarwal failing yet again, for the fourth time, to build on his good start. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, both playing for their places in the eleven, have indeed achieved their respective fifties, but their partnership of 111 runs still fell short as the middle-lower order could not capitalize, particularly Rishabh Pant who had a duck largely thanks to his uncalled-for aggression, and his position in the team should come under a scanner now with Wriddhiman Saha, a more dependable keeper cum batsman, waiting in the reserve. Of course, hats off to the Rabada burst of 3 wickets that turned the match in favor of South Africa.

 

The ugly demonstration of Bumrah with the bat was followed by an extremely disappointing performance with the ball in the last innings, he being India’s main strike bowler. Overall, India’s bowling performance was mediocre at best, perhaps guided by the overconfidence that they could get the brittle Proteas out easily again. After the first Test victory in Centurion captain Kohli praised the bowlers as immensely capable of getting the opposition out twice with ease and some cricket experts put the present Indian bowling as the best attack in world cricket.

 

But unfortunately, not a single Indian bowler could impress when it mattered most. Having said all that we must accept that this loss has more to do with the Indian batting than the bowling, India definitely needed many more runs in both the outings. Virat Kohli was also sorely missed, and his sitting out of this crucial encounter rather ruefully brings to our mind the images of injured players like Anil Kumble and many others playing valiantly for their national pride, overcoming their handicaps.

 

Now over to the Newlands Cricket Ground, one of the most beautiful and picturesque cricket stadiums in the world like the Adelaide Oval in Australia, in Cape Town where the decider Third Test is going to begin from the 11th of this month. India so far have lost 3 out of the 5 test matches played at the Newlands including the last defeat in 2018 while drawing the other 2 matches. It’d be much better not to look too much into the records and instead, the Indian cricketers must concentrate on a do-or-die performance to fulfill their aim of conquering the last frontier. As KL Rahul confirms Kohli should be fit to lead the team in the decider.

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