Little did the South African stand-in skipper Dean Elgar expect tumbling records when he opted to bat first in the second Test here in Newlands on Wednesday (January 3). While Elgar and co expected the wickets to be pacy, the pitch turned out to be pacy but with inconsistent bounce and drastic seam movement off the surface.
South Africa, who opted to bat first, folded for 55 in just one session, where India’s Mohammed Siraj caused havoc with figures of 6/15 in the first innings. In the aftermath of a crazy day, which saw 23 wickets fall, the joint-most in South Africa, the hosts’ batting consultant Ashwell Prince was left baffled by the conditions.
"One team can get bowled out. I remember a Test in India, where they had a formidable batting line-up, and we bowled them out before lunch on day one. If you give a top-quality attack, bowler-friendly conditions then they can do some serious damage," Prince said in the post-match press conference.
"To sum things up, if both line-ups can't bat on the surface, that says a lot."
Conversely, Elgar called for the South African batters to apply themselves a lot better with the bat in hand. While South African can’t do a lot now about their first innings, they still only trail the clash by 36 runs.
"As a batter, you have to play the way Virat (Kohli), Aiden (Makram) and Rohit (Sharma) applied themselves. You obviously got to take a few risks out there. And hopefully you get a reward,” Elgar told Star Sports in a post-match chat.
"It (The pitch) generally plays a little bit slower and as a batter you can adjust to that. This one just seemed to get quicker as the session went on.”
The majority of the wickets fell when the bowlers were operating from the Wynberg End, an end from which Siraj grabbed his six-wicket haul. Lungi Ngidi caused havoc from the other end in an over that fetched him three important wickets, triggering the comeback for the hosts, where there was plenty of steep bounce.
"There was a lot steeper bounce that way," Elgar said, pointing at the Calvin Grove end "And that side, it was a little bit lower. So I don't know what to make of it."
"From the naked eye it actually didn't look too bad. The wickets of the past, even domestically, haven't played at all badly. They've actually been quite good. It didn't look horrible."
Elgar was dismissed twice on the first day’s play itself, with an abrupt end to his Test career that has spanned a decade and has seen the southpaw tame multiple oppositions with his gritty batting.
"They have been challenging (pitches in South Africa) but I think that's what you've got to experience as a batter. For me, it's all about the balance between bat and ball and it's a fine line to get that right. In South Africa, maybe they get a little bit wrong and it is more in favour of the bowler,” Elgar added.
It was only four batters across 23 dismissals who crossed the 30-run mark - Aiden Markram, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma. All four had a positive approach with the bat in hand, leading their side's fortunes. Incidentally, the Newlands strip also was prepared by a first-timer Braam Mong, but Elgar put the onus on the batters to show more application.
“But as a batter you've still got to go out and apply yourself and you've got to really be mentally hard on yourself to be disciplined, stay to a very simple game plan and execute. There's no excuse going forward. You still have to apply yourself and that's anywhere around the world. But particularly in South Africa where it is a little bit tougher."