For the third Test in a row in South Africa, the erratic bowling from Indian seamers has cost them the match. On the 2021/22 tour, India failed to defend par totals twice in two games, squandering a 1-0 lead to lose the series 1-2.
It was presumed that India would correct their mistakes from the last tour. However, the bowling let the team down once again. After posting 245, India conceded a lead of 163 runs when the first innings score appeared to be on par to fetch a lead.
Not only did South Africa score 408, they brought it up at a run rate of 3.8. It is only the third time Indian bowlers have conceded in excess of 400 in a SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) Test since 2020.
Jasprit Bumrah, the leader of the pack, did his job. Bumrah snaffled 4/69 and was the only Indian bowler to go at less than three runs/over - 2.58. In only one of his six spells, he went at an economy of over 4 per over but picked two wickets in that burst.
The other three pacers constantly leaked runs - Mohammed Siraj at 3.8, the debutant Prasidh Krishna at 4.7 and Shardul Thakur at 5.3. Siraj went at an economy of four or more in three of his six spells. But considering Siraj pouched the wickets of Aiden Markram and David Bedingham, the support bowlers were a big problem for India.
Thakur went from bad to worse with every spell, with his economy being 1.5, 4.8, 5.8, 7 and 6 across his six spells in chronological order. Thakur constantly bowled on the pads, especially to the left-handers. Dean Elgar looted 54 runs off 72 balls from Thakur, the most he scored against a particular bowler during his knock of 185.
Thakur was able to dismiss Elgar from the leg stump line but it was a strange tactic that didn’t let India create any pressure on the Proteas.
Prasidh, on his debut, was never in control of his line and length. His first ball in Test cricket was an overpitched delivery which Elgar creamed through the covers for four. His figures of 20-2-93-1 comprise the second most expensive spell for any Indian pacer who has bowled a minimum of 20 overs in his debut innings. Barring a few deliveries in the short ball region, he had an economy of over four at every length.
It was inexplicable when India began the second session on Day 2 with Thakur and Prasidh. The duo conceded 42 runs in the eight overs between them. Surprisingly, both began the session with a maiden each but then sprayed it all over the park, struggling to bowl in good areas. In that session, India leaked 145 runs in 33 overs, picking only two wickets.
On Day 3, Bumrah and Siraj allowed only 12 runs in the first six overs of play. Prasidh, the follow-up bowler, then leaked 24 in his three overs as India lost grip on things again.
Overall, India were the culprit of bowling too full in search of swing when the pitch had eased out a bit.
“Batting did get a bit easier today. Having batted today, even for 7-8 overs, it felt that the wicket had eased up a little bit. Yesterday, it was very damp. It is always the case with wickets with grass on, second and third days are the best to bat on,” said KL Rahul after the play on Day 2.
Indian pacers bowled 33.4 overs of half volleys and full length deliveries and conceded at 5.2 runs per over. It helped Elgar the most as he caressed the ball through the off side for fun, scoring 74 off 84 such deliveries. India scored 20 off 13 cover drives while batting first while the Proteas accrued 52 runs from 33 cover drives.
In that regard, Elgar’s numbers reveal India’s bowling struggles. Only Bumrah could trouble him to a certain extent while the others struggled to produce one false shot every five deliveries on average against the left-hander.
Overall, India neither had the perseverance nor the bowling plans to upset the Protea batters. The batting imploded too, managing only 376 runs for 20 wickets. But there is a concerning pattern with the ball which cost India this Test at least.
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