The third and final Test against South Africa at Wanderers would be remembered for the kind of pitch it was played on. On a pitch of uneven bounce, every delivery had the potential to scare even the toughest of batsmen. This unusual and unexpected behaviour of the pitch began early on Day 2. However, it became a big issue only towards the end of the third day’s play, when the South African batsman, Dean Elgar, was hit on the head by a rising delivery. The Proteas, set 241 to win, had just begun their chase then, and more than 15 overs were left before the close of play. But the play was stopped as Elgar complained that the pitch was not suitable for play.
A visibly furious India captain, Virat Kohli, seemed to protest the decision. He made it clear that the conditions were same for both sides, and the Indian batsmen, despite taking blows to their bodies, continued to play without complaining, so why shouldn’t South Africans do the same?
The following day, play started late owing to overnight rains and wet outfield, and things changed dramatically in favour of SA as the pitch seemed to ease up. Hashim Amla and Elgar took the score to 124-1, and SA needed another 117 runs to complete a 3-0 victory. In the final session of the day, the match saw another twist. The over hundred-run partnership between Amla and Elgar, which was threatening to take the match away from India, was broken. And the next one hour witnessed one of the most dramatic sessions in Test cricket, as SA lost nine wickets for the addition of 53 runs. Mohammed Shami claimed five wickets, as India won the match by 63 runs and maintained its record of not losing in Johannesburg.
The 2-1 series result looks much better than 3-0. While a 3-0 result would give an impression of total domination by a side, the 2-1 result indicates that it was a well fought series that could have gone either way.
When one looks at the Test series, it is surely disappointing as India had the best chance to win in South Africa this time. Unlike the previous Indian teams in South Africa, this side had a good pace attack.
India, for the first time, won a Test outside the sub-continent without playing a spinner, and in the series it bowled out the opposition in every innings. That is historic in itself. We didn’t lack good quality players, but poor selection in the first two Tests cost India the series.
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