Shikhar Dhawan dropped Keshav Maharaj in the first innings of the opening Test match when he had just come out to bat. Maharaj went on to score 35 runs, which were invaluable in the context of the match. As it turned out, India lost the match by just 72 runs.
In close fought encounters, holding on to half chances can be the deciding factor between victory and defeat. Despite a couple of run-outs being effected by Indian fielders, they were by and large sloppy when it came to catching. Let us have a look at five dropped catches by India that had the potential of changing the landscape of the match.
Dean Elgar was under 20 when he mistimed a bouncer from Jasprit Bumrah. Vijay, who was at fine leg, could not judge the ball that was coming straight to him. He started running towards the ball. The balls flew over his head and hit the boundary cushion after bouncing once.
As a result, South Africa did not lose any wicket in the first session and went to lunch with 78-0. If India had drawn first blood before lunch, they would have come out with a spring in their step in the second session.
This one was probably the toughest of all the five chances. When Amla was relatively new at the crease, he tried to hit Ravichandran Ashwin through mid on. But the ball gripped in the surface and the handle of the bat turned in Amla’s hand.
The ball went in the air to Pandya at silly mid on who did well to get his fingertips to the ball. If he had managed to grab that one, it would have been a spectacular catch.
Jadeja was probably lost in the thoughts of how he would he have fared on the Centurion pitch that had a bit of purchase in it. He was fielding at mid-wicket as the substitute for Pandya.
Virat had taken the new ball and only four-five overs remaining at the end of day’s play. Ashwin bowled a half-tracker which Maharaj pulled towards Jadeja. Had he judged the ball, it would have been a simple catch. The left-arm spinner could not sight the ball as he did not even move an inch from his place. The reactions of Kohli and Ashwin were telling of the importance of this wicket.
There was always concern about Parthiv Patel’s tendency to spill important catches. Although all in all he did a fine job, he dropped Amla’s catch off the bowling of Ishant Sharma.
Ishant bowled a delivery that was drifting down the leg side. It took the outside edge of Amla’s bat on its way to the keeper. Parthiv dived to his left and was able to get his fingers on the ball but failed to collect it.
It was early in Ashwin’s opening spell when Vijay let off Dean Elgar. Elgar was struggling to get going in the first session. With the ball spinning and bouncing, it made it all-the-more difficult for him to score off Ashwin.
In an attempt to break free, the left-hander danced down the pitch but the ball spun sharply and took Elgar’s edge. Vijay, who was at short leg, was very late to react and the ball bounced before him. Had he moved swiftly along with Elgar, as most good close in fielders do, the outcome could have been different.