India began Day 3 of the Centurion Test with the hopes of bouncing back. Things didn’t go according to plan and the visitors were slammed with an innings defeat by the end of the day’s play.
India needed to wrap up South Africa within the morning session. However, they couldn’t manage to pick their first wicket until the 29th over of the day’s play. Marco Jansen was left stranded on 84 while Dean Elgar’s marathon effort concluded at 185. South Africa amassed 408 in their first innings, leading by 163 runs. India were then cleaned up for 131 in 34.1 overs.
“It wasn’t a 400-run wicket,” assessed the India skipper, Rohit Sharma after Day 3.
“We gave too many runs. It happens. We cannot depend on one bowler. The rest of the bowlers need to chip in too. We can also learn from how the other team bowled on that surface,” he said.
Jasprit Bumrah was the only Indian seamer to make an impact for India. He finished 4/69 but was also the only pacer with his economy (2.58) lower than the overall economy of South Africa’s innings (3.75). He generated nearly 30% false shots from Elgar while no other Indian pacer managed to cross 17.5%.
“Bumrah bowled well. We all know his quality. All he wanted was a bit of support from the other side, which he didn't get. To be honest, that happens. All the other three bowlers were trying hard, bending their back, but it didn't work out. Games like these teach you a lot of things, what you need to do as a group, as a bowling group,” Rohit said.
Praisdh Krishna had a forgettable debut. In 20 overs, he went for 93 runs, picking the wicket of Kyle Verreynne. It is the second most expensive spell for any Indian pacer who has bowled a minimum of 20 overs in his debut innings. This was only Prasidh’s 13th game in first-class cricket.
Rohit acknowledged that Prasidh is young but stressed that he has the tools for Test cricket. "Look, a little bit inexperience, but he has got the tools to come out here and play the game," he said.
"The bowlers that we have back in India, some of them are injured, some are not available. So we try to pick the guys who are available and we see the conditions that we are coming up against and try to pick the bowlers based on that. I completely agree that he [Prasidh] has not played a lot of cricket, but there are three guys in their team as well who have not played a lot of cricket; they came here and showed what it takes.
"Prasidh has been with the Indian team. He is not around the Test team, but he has played a lot of white-ball cricket for us in the last two or three years, and he has shown that he has a lot of potential. It didn't work out well for him playing his first game, but we all were nervous when we played our first game. He would have been nervous as well,” Rohit said in support of the 27-year old.
With the bat, India batted only 101.5 for the loss of 20 wickets as compared to South Africa batting for 108.4 overs in their first innings.
"We might have put in this performance here, but don't forget what we did in Australia and England," the skipper said about the batting performance.
"We won the series in Australia on the back of our batting. We drew the series in England through our batting and bowling both. These performances can happen. It doesn't mean we don't know how to bat outside India. Sometimes the opposition performs better than us. I think on those terms. The opposition played better than us. That's why they won. Not that we couldn't bat even 110 overs. Go and check the results over the last four years or last four tours."
India played a preparatory intra-squad match in the build-up of this series. The management decided against a first-class fixture against a domestic side in South Africa or a warm-up game. Rohit, answering questions on the same, spoke about the difference in wickets in the warm-up fixtures and the Test series.
"We have been playing practice matches for the last five to six years. We have even tried first-class matches, but we don't get these kind of wickets in practice matches. When we last went to Australia, when we came to South Africa in 2018, the ball didn't bounce above the knee on those pitches. In the Test, it flies above the head,” Rohit explained.
"Keeping these things in mind, we decided to prepare in our own way. If you get the conditions in practice matches that you get in Test matches, then it is a different matter. But we have seen on the last three to four tours that we don't get those conditions in practice matches. Even the bowlers bowl 120-125 kph. We have experienced that in the last two or three practice matches that we have played on away tours,” he said.
Rohit was also full of praise for Elgar’s knock while answering the questions about his opposite number.
“He played well. He batted to his strength. We have seen it so many times now, especially against us. He is the guy who really likes to stand up. We didn’t bowl that well to him but you have got to give credit where it is due,” he answered.
“We are going to analyze what we could have done better and talk to the individual. But I think it is important to leave a loss like this here and not take it with us to Cape Town,” Rohit mentioned about India’s approach going forward.