South African captain Faf du Plessis admitted that it was the partnership between Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara in the second innings that took the game away from them. South Africa was bundled out for 191 after Rohit and Pujara’s 169-run partnership helped India set a 394-run lead.
When the visitors battled away to restrict India’s first-innings lead to 71 and then got rid of double-centurion Mayank Agarwal cheaply, it seemed as though the Proteas had the first Test well under their control. However, there was no way past the ‘Hitman’ Rohit and India’s rock at No.3 Pujara, who started slowly before tearing into all the visiting bowlers.
“Great start to the game with the bat. Obviously India batted well, two great knocks by Mayank and Rohit. We fought well in our first innings with the bat... To get that sort of a total in the second innings of a game in India is tough. Their second innings was tough for us, Rohit and Pujara took the game away from us,” du Plessis said at the post-match presentation, reported Cricbuzz.
After Pujara (81) and Rohit (127) departed, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, and Ajinkya Rahane stretched India’s lead all the way to 394, which left South Africa with the only option of holding out for a draw. But a collapse in the first session on day five, which left them 70 for eight, courtesy of an excellent spell by Mohammad Shami blew their hopes away.
“I thought up until this morning, we competed pretty well on a good pitch.. Day 5 if it starts misbehaving like that it's fine.. That's part of Test cricket. If you are always through a game like that you can think of the what ifs. The seamers were mostly doing a holding job in this game up until today. Shami bowled beautifully today,” du Plessis said.
For a side in transition, taking out the fifth-day collapse, South Africa did offer a stern resistance against the Men in Blue. And their skipper was in no mood to blame the conditions for their 203-run loss. Instead, du Plessis noted down the areas they need to improve on in the two matches that remain.
“We got to improve on our spinners taking 4-5 wickets in the second innings. On a Day 5 pitch things happens quicker (wickets falling). It should be like that, it's perfect like that (the pitch playing up and down). We got to move on from this and get ready for the next Test,” du Plessis added.
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