Visakhapatnam saw a hard-fought first Test of the three-match Test series between hosts India and visitors South Africa. As history proves, it’s always best to catch the Indians off-guard in the first match in home conditions, and Faf du Plessis’ young South Africa tried their very best. But in the end, the machine-like precision of Virat Kohli’s men proved too much over 5 days, and India won the test by 203 runs to go 1-0 up in the series.
The second Test in Pune – where the weather is expected to be dicey – begins on October 10th (Thursday). In the meantime, here are 5 lessons we took away from India’s win:
Records tumbled over five days. Rohit Sharma became the first Test batsman to score twin centuries in his first Test match as an opener. His 13 sixes was a world record for the maximum number of sixes hit by a single batsman in a Test match. Rohit also became the first Indian opener since Sunil Gavaskar in 1978 to score twin centuries in a Test. Mayank Agarwal became the fourth Indian batsman to score a double as his first century. Ravichandran Ashwin became the fastest bowler ever to 350 wickets – a record he now shares with the great Muttiah Muralitharan. India has won 10 consecutive home series since early 2013, a record that has spanned more than 6 years, equalling Australia’s record. They have lost only 1 Test (in Pune, to Australia) at home in this period, and another series win will give them 11 victories in a row – a domination unmatched in the modern era.
— BCCI (@BCCI) October 6, 2019
For a guy with so many records to his name already, it’s almost baffling that Ashwin continues to regularly get dropped from the Test team – his only format – when India play overseas. The Visakhapatnam Test was his first since last November (Sydney), after he was dropped in Australia, England and West Indies. But there is no pretender to the thinking bowler’s throne in home conditions. On a sluggish pitch which made it tough for spinners, Ashwin toiled and bowled with heart in the first innings to pick up 7 wickets in 46 overs. The Elgar v/s Ashwin battle was enthralling to watch, and the 2015 version of Ashwin – where he destroyed the Proteas single-handedly – kept rearing itself in brief shades. He got the first wicket of the fifth day, giving India the confidence to go for the win and setting it up for Shami’s devastating second-innings assault. There is still no better spinner than Ashwin, except Nathan Lyon, currently in Test cricket, and India need his unerring guile over the next two tests against a team that is quickly learning how to tackle spin bowling.
PUJARA A CONFIDENCE BATSMAN
It’s easy to forget about Cheteshwar Pujara, just like Ashwin. Pujara became a monk in India’s historic 2-1 win in Australia and has since then dispelled all doubts about his position in Test cricket. But the IPL and World Cup happened, and suddenly Test cricket became a distant memory. When Pujara returned to bat in the West Indies, he failed in both Test matches. He failed again in the first innings against South Africa, and just like that, his lack of international cricket showed. But his quick partnership with Rohit Sharma and some luck early on gave him the confidence he needed, and he zoomed to 82 after a cautious start. A century would have done him good, but India needed Pujara to get back into the groove after an underwhelming month. He mostly stands up in tough conditions when the batsmen around him fail. The others have been having a good time in the middle, but when the collapse comes, India will need Pujara to stand.
— BCCI (@BCCI) October 5, 2019
PROTEAS DIFFERENT THIS TIME
South Africa may be the most inexperienced Test side right now, but their seniors stood up in the first innings. Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, and Quinton de Kock put their hands up, but it’s their bowling that needs the help. The two spinners were more effective as batsmen than bowlers, and Kagiso Rabada has been struggling ever since the IPL. They need their strike bowlers to fire in spurts, but they have made one thing clear: They won’t roll over and die like in 2015 on those iffy pitches. India has to earn the win like it did in Visakhapatnam.
JADEJA A BATTING ALL-ROUNDER?
After his World Cup semi-final performance, Ravindra Jadeja was selected above Ashwin as the spinner in the West Indies series. His all-round skills are back in the spotlight, and his catch to dismiss Aiden Markram off his own bowling is a reminder. Kohli sent Jadeja up the order at 4 when India needed quick runs in the second innings. Jadeja responded with a quickfire 40 and then came out to take 4 wickets on the fifth day. He is not as good a spinner as Ashwin, but he is perhaps more valuable as a player – the Indian team management wants the team to thrive on his energy and boyish skills.