South Africa v India, 1st Test: Five Hits and Five Misses

Hits

  1. Like he did in England in 2014, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was brilliant with both bat and ball. India must be careful not to bowl this whole-hearted cricketer into the ground on this tour. Holding on to catches in the slips will help keep his energy levels up.
  2. Pandya’s performance. The lone warrior on day 2 for India scoring 93 (95) with the bat to tame four fire-breathing South African quicks and then taking two wickets to help India keep a toe-hold in the match.
  3. Wriddhiman Saha. A flawless performance behind the stumps saw Saha break the Indian test record for the number of catches. He pouched everything with a minimum of fuss. He will want to contribute more in front of the wickets though, scoring only 0 and 8.
  4. Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara for the first 18 overs on day 2. Good, solid test cricket. It was good to see Rohit reigning in his usual attacking instincts for the greater good.
  5. The second innings bowling performance. From 65 for 2, it was a fantastic performance to bowl the home team out for the addition of just another 65 runs. The lines were perfect, no boundaries were gifted and the chances created were taken.

Misses

  1. Opening the batting with Shikhar Dhawan. He is not the man you want opening the innings on spicy wickets against good attacks. He should stick to bullying Sri Lanka on flat subcontinental tracks. He also dropped Keshav Maharaj on 0 in the slips, costing the team 35 runs.  KL Rahul, a better technician, must replace him in the second test.
  2. Dropping Ajinkya Rahane. He has been our best batsman overseas, scoring hundreds on difficult wickets in England and Australia and is our best pair of hands behind the wicket. He should replace Ashwin in the second test so that Rohit Sharma can keep his place and chip with a few overs of off-spin when required.
  3. Letting South Africa get 286 in the first innings after having them at 12 for 3. With Kohli over-attacking with his fields, De Villiers, Du Plessis and De Kock took the bowlers on and the Indian bowlers melted at the first sign of pressure.
  4. The loss of three wickets at the end of day 1. Forty five minutes of madness pushed India way onto the backfoot. Vijay driving away from his body, Dhawan trying to swivel-pull Steyn and Kohli playing a nothing shot. Many would say that this test match was lost on day 1.
  5. Finally, Indian batting on day 4. Chasing 208 to win an away test match, we were 30-0. Once again, we lost wickets in a rush and were reduced 39 for 3 and then from 77-3 to 82 for 7. Then all of a sudden, while Bhuvi and Ashwin put on their 40+ run partnership, batting looked fairly easy. It took quite a loose shot from Ashwin to gift South Africa the breakthrough. With time not being a factor in the test and South Africa reduced to three fast bowlers with the absence of Steyn, could the top/middle Indian batsman have held on a little while longer? Could they have waited a little bit longer for the South African bowlers to tire? Could we have seen a different result with a little more patience (and a little luck)? Guess we will never know.

So the gauntlet has been thrown down. South Africa lead 1-0. It’s up to India to make the play. Are they going to be good enough? Can they walk the walk after talking the talk?

The second test match begins in Centurion on Saturday, 13 January.

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