After resting the demons of 2015 during the first innings, South Africa inflicted themselves with fresh wounds as India won the First Test by 201 runs. Losing seven wickets in the first session, the hope of saving the Test match was lost before it could be conjured. Some gritty application by the tail-enders delayed the inevitable but South Africa was all-out for 191 about an hour after lunch.
With no considerable contribution in the first four days, Mohammed Shami was the star for India on the fifth day. With average balls per wicket of 41.1 while bowling in the second innings as compared to 60.6 in the first, ‘Second-Innings’ Shami ended up with a five-for to his name. Getting four of the five dismissals by uprooting the stumps, Shami utilized the variable bounce and movement of the pitch to his advantage.
It all started for Shami when Temba Bavuma’s stumps were rattled through a ball that kept low and tailed-in. While the lack of bounce made it difficult, Bavuma was caught on the crease just like in the first innings. South African skipper, Faf du Plessis up until the ball that dismissed him, exhibited picture-perfect defence and accurate leaves outside off. As a few of his dismissals through his career, Du Plessis shouldered arms to a ball that nipped back in after hitting the pitch and could only watch in disbelief as his off-stump went cartwheeling.
Similar to his skipper, Quinton de Kock failed to read the line of a ball bowled from over the wickets by Shami. Perceiving it to go across him, De Kock was bowled between the gates as the ball nipped back in just enough to give Shami his third wicket of the day.
Watching the collapse from the other end, Aiden Markram looked solid and used his feet well to hit a six off Ashwin and three fours off Ravindra Jadeja during his innings of 39. Trying to hit over Jadeja’s head, his worst nightmare was realised when the bowler plucked the ball with one hand out of thin air to end his innings.
Taking perhaps the most important South African wicket on the fourth day, Jadeja provided the death punch in one over on the fifth day. After dismissing Markram caught and bowled, Jadeja dismissed Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander, who bagged a pair, LBW in the same over, rendering South Africa eight down for 70.
The collapse on the fifth day was initiated when Theunis de Bruyn played-on while attempting a cut on a full-ish ball outside-off from Ravichandran Ashwin, who became the joint-fastest (along with Muttiah Muralitharan) to reach to 350 Test wickets in the process.
Senuran Muthusamy and Dane Piedt batted better than they bowled as they frustrated the Indian bowlers with a partnership of 91 runs, the highest for the ninth wicket in all India-South Africa Tests.
While Piedt was particularly aggressive, Muthusamy looked composed at the crease. In an innings that would have made the top-order South Africa batsmen kicking themselves for lack of application, Muthusamy became the only South Africa batsman to play 100 balls in both innings and the only one to remain un-dismissed in the match. Piedt continued his aggressive approach to bring up his maiden Test half-century, probably not enough to confirm his position in the side for the second Test.
After the spinners failed to make an impact on the partnership, Kohli brought in Shami back 16 overs after lunch. Piedt played back to his stumps on the first ball he faced, giving Shami his fourth wicket. Kagiso Rabada opted for an attacking approach against Jadeja as he hit him for a four and a six over long-on. Shami finished the match when Rabada nicked one off him to Wriddhiman Saha.
In the post-match presentation, Du Plessis mentioned that his team competed well up until this morning. He also added that apart from Shami’s spell, the job of pacers from both teams was to hold one end up.
Kohli highlighted that India were always ahead in the game and knew it will be a second innings game given the pitch was on the flatter side. He also mentioned that the pacers themselves want to contribute even while playing at home and hence have been successful in the last few years.
Rohit Sharma was adjudged the Man of the Match for his twin centuries. He acknowledged the management for giving him an opportunity to open while mentioning that he was communicated this scenario a couple of years ago and has been practising with a new ball in nets since. In his typical lazy elegance, he was caught unaware of the record of hitting most sixes in a Test and mentioned that he is not aware of many records in Test cricket.
While South Africa fought well during the first four days, the gulf between the two teams in these conditions was visible across both facets of the game. With such a short turn-around before the second Test, they will hope for a favourable pitch and some luck with the coin.