India’s constant habit of subsiding, a disquieting headache marching into day four

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safari
28 Dec 2021 | 09:33 PM
authorAnirudh Kasargod

India’s constant habit of subsiding, a disquieting headache marching into day four

Kohli and Co. are well and truly ahead in this match with a lead of 146 and nine wickets in hand, but can’t rule out a collapse

A haunting collapse in the first hour of day three was compensated by a monumental effort by the Indian pacers. Mohammed Shami was the wrecker in chief with a five-for, his second in South Africa. Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur chipped in with two wickets each and Mohammad Siraj with the solitary wicket of Rassie van der Dussen saw South Africa skittle for 197. For the first time, they have been bowled out for a score of less than 200 at SuperSport Park in Tests, a testimony of how good Indian bowlers were. 

On the back of their bowlers efforts, India head into the fourth day with a 146-run lead with Mayank Agarwal back in the hut. In any case, it is advantage India. On the other hand, the pitch is quickening up and it is not the same hapless South African pace line-up that it was in the first innings. 

The ghosts of another collapse to haunt India again?

Despite the advantage, India’s developing habit of muddling up in the first session stays a constant worry, just like what happened on day three’s morning session. Mind you, this is not the first time India have suffered a massive collapse in the morning session. Our writer Anirudh Suresh has chalked down India’s detailed misery on the morning session since December 2020. 

The threat remains the same on day four as well. In fact, it is much worse than what it was on the third day. Since December 2020, India have lost a wicket every 22.1 runs and 47.7 balls on day four of an away Tests. To make it worse, they have lost a wicket every 12.9 runs and 28 balls on the first session of day four, the worst across all days. Virat Kohli in three innings in the morning session of day four has averaged 17.3, Ajinkya Rahane averages 14 in five innings and Cheteshwar Pujara averages three in three innings. These numbers are ominous signs for Indian fans even with the team being in control. 

Indian batters struggle in the second innings 

If the session data wasn’t worrying enough, here lies another problem. The opening partnership between Agarwal and Rahul that laid a strong foundation in the first innings, failed to contribute in the second innings after the early exit of Agarwal. Rahul, the centurion from the first innings, once again has to shoulder the responsibility of bailing them out in the first hour. But, there lies a mother of all problems, especially for Rahul. 

In Tests since 2020, in five innings, Rahul has averaged 70.6 in the first innings with two centuries and one half-century. However, in the same number innings in the second, he has scored 90 runs at an average of 22.5 without a single 50+ score. In fact, the rest of the top order suffer the same fate. But, Rishabh Pant is the odd-man-out of the lot, especially in away matches. In away Tests since 2020, Pant averages 18.6 in the first innings without a 50+ score. Whereas, in the second innings, he scores at an average of 47 with three 50+ scores. Cheteshwar Pujara also, tends to better himself in the second innings, but not too significantly. 

On the bowling front, South Africa also have enjoyed bowling in the first session of day four at home. In Tests since 2018, they have bagged wickets at an average of 24.6 and balls/wicket ratio of 40.6. To add more, their pacers have bagged a wicket every 40 balls in the second innings in home Tests since the aforementioned time, the second best among all teams. 

To conclude, India have a daunting task to overcome their issues. But, this Indian team is known to do the unthinkable. So, pardon me for being optimistic! But, it is a ray of hope that we rely on.

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South Africa vs IndiaIndia tour of South Africa, 2021/22South AfricaIndiaKL RahulVirat KohliCheteshwar PujaraAjinkya RahaneRishabh Pant

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