India vs South Africa | Talking point from Day 4 of Cape Town Test

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India vs South Africa | Talking point from Day 4 of Cape Town Test

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Bastab K Parida


It was a forgettable day for the Indian batsmen at Newlands as the team were bundled out for a paltry 135 runs gifting the hosts a 1-0 lead. Vernon Philander took centre stage, picking a six-wicket haul in the second innings and leaving the visitors with much to ponder as the series progresses.

Brief scores : South Africa 286 (AB de Villiers 65, Faf du Plessis 62; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-87) & 130 (AB de Villiers 35, Aiden Markram 34; Mohammad Shami 3/28, Jasprit Bumrah 3/39) beat India 209 (Hardik Pandya 93; Kagiso Rabada 3-34, Vernon Philander 3-33) & 135 (R Ashwin 37, Virat Kohli 28; Vernon Philander 6/42, Morne Morkel 2/39) by 72 runs

An opening session for ages

Coming into the penultimate day of the first Test, South Africa were always going to be favorites and with eight wickets in hand, they were expected to put up a target of around 300 runs. But in Cape Town, the day after the pitch spent a full day under the covers amidst several hours of rain, it was not going to be the case as even the good-length deliveries behaved like bouncers. Taking benefit of that, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah decided to bowl at a nagging line outside off and also found movement off the seam. While that helped the former get the first two wickets of the day, the debutante gathered success by bowling all his overs from over the wicket and by exploring a fuller length. 

The bowling from two ends of the stadium made for a great spectacle as the two pacers did not let a moment slip away from their fingers and an excited Virat Kohli tirelessly kept egging on his bowlers and fielders from the start. Shami often showed the knack of getting the ball to skid off the surface when bowling at the right lengths and that’s why Kohli made a subtle field change. Shami pulled his length back a bit while bowling closer to the body and was successful in intimidating the Africans. 

More than the eight wickets taken in the first innings, the first session had all the ingredients of a classic Test match. Indian fans, who were obviously bored of India-Sri Lanka series, would surely take it. Classic Test match stuff. 

Vernon Philander – the most underrated bowler

Unlike other South African bowlers, Vernon Philander doesn’t have a great pace, but his ability to move the ball both ways and relentlessly attack the stumps over long spells has helped him become one of the best in the business. There has been an ebb and flow to Philander's career and a bigger period has been plagued by struggle and injury, but with the passage of time, he has proven that he still has the gold dust around him that once forced Faf du Plessis to joke, “Philander is the new Kallis”. 

Although Kagiso Rabada has emerged as South Africa's most threatening bowler, the conditions away from home might not suit his style. However, Philander has proven that there is much to him than just that menacing swing bowling. And at Newlands, he just demonstrated once again that why Ricky Ponting once described him as “the most difficult bowler that he had ever faced”.  He rumbled in with an upright seam, threatening to move the ball easily in either direction and coupled that up with bounce which was sufficient to extract edge from the Indian batsmen. On the other hand, the one that had Virat Kohli trapped just nipped back in off the pitch and hit him in line with middle. 

While Philander’s name has never been taken in same breathe when we discuss modern-day great pacers, this nine-wicket match has obiviously forced all of us to rethink the same. 

It’s high-time for Indian batsmen to retrospect

“Tigers at home and lambs abroad” – this is how a popular media outlet described India’s overseas struggles and rightly so. Apart from India’s bowlers, who bowled with their hearts out, none of the top-order Indian batsmen were able to score a fifty and that explained pretty much everything. And to understand the reason for the same, we should date back to November 23, the day before the second of three Tests against Sri Lanka in Nagpur. 

For the first Test in Kolkata, a seamer-friendly pitch had been produced and with the conditions being overcast the Lankan fast bowlers had it good. Virat Kohli said during the pre-match press conference that the Indians “had asked for pace-friendly pitches because there was little or no time" between the end of the three-format series against Sri Lanka (on December 24) and the next one in Cape Town on January 5.

However, only six of the South Africa-bound players were in the squad for the Sri Lanka ODIs - Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, and Jasprit Bumrah. That number again reduced to only four – Rohit, Bumrah, Pandya, and Rahul – when it came to the three T20Is. Which meant that all of Kohli (Discount him because he was on off for his wedding), Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha, and Parthiv Patel were not engaged after December 6, when the last Test got over, though a couple of them were playing in the Ranji Trophy.

If they would have traveled to the African nation at least a couple of weeks before the first Test, they could have had more than just a mini nets session for less than a week. Although that would never have been anything close to what Newlands was going to offer, it, at least, could have given them a chance to acclimatize to the conditions better. 

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