When India lost by 72 runs in the first Test match at Cape Town after coming close to a victory, it looked as though they had missed a golden chance. The captain and the team looked determined that the next time they were faced with such an opportunity, they would grab it with both hands.
The opportunity came again in the next Test. It went begging this time around as well. With a brown wicket and conditions akin to home, India had their best chance to win at Centurion. But once again, they let the crucial moments slip from their hands.
Here is a look at the five key things that led to India’s failure in the 2nd Test.
Virat lost the toss in the Newlands match. In the second Test as well, South Africa won the toss and decided to bat first. On a wicket that offered variable bounce, batting got tougher as the match progressed.
Some short-pitched balls kept low, while others shot off from nowhere. In the fourth innings, Murali Vijay faced one such delivery that took the bottom edge of his bat and crashed into the wickets. Once India lost the toss, it was always about chasing the game rather than calling the shots.
Neither cricket pundits nor fans are unaware of Hardik Pandya’s mercurial style of play. He takes his chances. If they come off as they did in the first innings at Cape Town, it’s all well and good. Otherwise, they seem foolhardy.
After defending the ball for some time in the fourth innings, Pandya went after a wide ball from Ngidi to play his favourite ramp shot over the keeper’s head. He could only manage a faint outside edge, as de Kock took an easy catch. At a time when the team needed him to fight it out and save the Test, such a stroke was uncalled for.
In the first innings as well, he had run himself out in a very careless manner, when he didn’t ground his bat while running back to the crease. If either of these mistakes were avoided, it could have led the match in a different direction.
If there was one person whose eyes must have lit up after seeing a brown pitch in Centurion, it would have been Ravichandran Ashwin. The first ball that he bowled gripped and spun off the surface. He ended up bowling 31 overs on the first day of the Test match. After the first innings, his wickets column had four entries.
On a pitch responsive to spin, it was expected that Ashwin would run through the South African side in the third innings. His opening spell with the new ball ignited some hope as well. However, after bowling almost 30 overs, Ashwin only had one wicket to show for all his efforts.
It is not only batting and bowling in which India were outplayed by their opponents. One of the prime areas which was the deciding factor in the fortunes of the two teams was their contrasting fielding performances.
While AB de Villiers contributed to two dismissals on day five, India’s fielding had been below par. Despite a couple of run outs in the first innings, the Indian team dropped more catches than it took.
This match will be remembered as much for rash running between the wickets as it will be for Ngidi’s performance on his debut. The match saw five run outs in total, out of which three were of Indian batsmen.
Cheteshwar Pujara became the first and only Indian batsman to be run out in both the innings of a Test match. Hardik Pandya also fares on the list of run outs for his slothful running. He failed to ground his bat and gifted his wicket to the opposition on a platter.
A quick analysis of why India lost the second Test match against South Africa: