IND vs SA Test series: An astonishing comeback by South Africa

For India, the Final Frontier remains unconquered. And this 2-1 series triumph is of great significance to a transitional South African side.

Dean Elgar (right) with the series trophy and Keegan Peterson with the player of the match trophy.   -  Getty Images

Up against a powerful Indian side, the South Africans were the no-hopers even on home turf. Coach Mark Boucher said, “People wrote us off after the opening day of the first Test.”

The Proteas went down in the first Test. Soon arrived the shock Test retirement of Quinton de Kock. Then came the fightback. And the comeback was one for the ages for South African cricket. A great sporting tale where heroes emerge, the script changes dramatically, and the opposition is conquered.

For India, the Final Frontier remains unconquered. And this 2-1 series triumph is of great significance to a transitional side.

Such a victory can shape a team. And South Africa found new champions, Keegan Petersen, Marco Jansen and Rassie van der Dussen. Any team draws its strength from its captain and Dean Elgar took blows on his body, never wilted, and carried the fight. Seeing its captain battling through pain is a spirit-lifting sight for a team.

READ: What cost Team India a maiden series win in South Africa

Elgar's, all guts, match-winning unbeaten 96 on a dicey Wanderers pitch of variable bounce and seam movement, chasing a demanding 240, was a classic case of a captain leading from the front.

Elgar’s man-management skills also came to the fore in the manner he was able to rile up pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada into bowling a hostile game-changing spell at the Wanderers.

Petersen is a special talent at No. 3. The manner this technically correct batter gets into good positions, both in defence and offence, underlined his footwork and balance.

His 82 on the chase at Newlands was a mix of responsibility and class. Van der Dussen displayed resilience on both the successful chases, applying himself, holding his end, and being judicious with his strokes.

The little Temba Bavuma might lack technical finesse of a Petersen but can give the ball a thump. Throughout the series, he batted with an aggressive intent. Eventually, the bowlers win you games and South Africa made a crucial decision ahead of the second Test. The Proteas opted for an extra bowler at the expense of an all-rounder when it was the batting that came under fire and many wanted South Africa to play an extra batter.

It was an attacking ploy. Elgar said, “The top six have to take responsibility.” And how well they did!

Even with the injured Anrich Nortje, arguably the quickest bowler in the world, South Africa had firepower in its bowling. The fast and furious Rabada let it rip, opened up games, and scalped batsmen. Lungi Ngidi bowled spells of controlled aggression, generating pace and giving little away. His accurate but incisive spell in the Indian second innings at Newlands was critical.

Duanne Olivier, with his two-way swing, struck with the new ball. Yet, the biggest bowling star for the Proteas was the tall left-arm seamer Marco Jansen.

He finished just one behind Rabada with 19 wickets in the series, harried the batsmen with his left-armer’s angle, bounce and control from both over and round the wicket. Vitally, he could bring the ball into the right-hander.  

For South Africa, the pieces fell in place. This indeed was an astonishing comeback.   

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