South Africa won the decisive final test against top-ranked India by seven wickets Friday to come from behind and clinch the series 2-1.
It denied India its first test series win in South Africa and was an unexpected result considering the strength of the Indian team under captain Virat Kohli, and the relative inexperience of the South African side.
“That people expect us to beat South Africa in South Africa is testimony to how far we’ve come,” said Kohli. “We haven’t done it, that’s the reality. Accept it and come back as better cricketers. You’ve got to credit the opposition where it’s due.”
India was a convincing winner of the first test in Centurion by 113 runs and that seemed to be a fore-cast for the series ahead. But the Proteas leveled in Johannesburg with a gutsy fourth-innings run chase and did the same again when it chased down 212 in the decider at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.
South Africa got home surprisingly comfortably and finished on 212-3 soon after lunch on Day 4.
Temba Bavuma won it with a four through square leg and then pumped his fists and let out a roar. He was 32 not out to see his team home and Rassie van der Dussen was 41 not out. The South African players in the dressing room celebrated exuberantly after their biggest win under the leader-ship of captain Dean Elgar, who was appointed last year, and coach Mark Boucher.
“I threw down the challenge after the first game and the guys responded brilliantly,” Elgar said, add-ing he’d had some “tough chats” with his players following the big loss in the first test.
“If you want to operate at a high-performance level, have to have tough chats. If guys don’t like it, it’s up to them to deal with. I’ve got old-school mentality.”
India has now had eight attempts to win a test series in South Africa dating back to when the Pro-teas were readmitted into international cricket in 1992. South Africa has won seven of the contests in South Africa, with one drawn series.
South Africa’s success in chasing down a tricky target on a wearing Newlands pitch was largely down to No. 3 Keegan Petersen, who made 82 in the second innings to anchor South Africa’s series-clinching innings. He also contributed 72 in the first innings in his fifth test and first home series.
The series was low-scoring and tight through-out, partly down to the fast bowler-friendly nature of the South African pitches and also the strength of both teams’ bowling attacks.
Ultimately, South Africa’s perceived weakness — its batting — prevailed against the strong Indian bowling attack led by Jasprit Bumrah, who was a threat throughout but ended with just 1-54 when it counted in the final innings of the series.
South Africa started Day 4 on 101-2 and with the match in the balance. But Petersen shared a partnership of 54 with van der Dussen following a stand of 78 with Elgar the day before. When Peter-sen fell by cutting a ball onto his own stumps to leave South Africa 155-3, India had a glimpse of victory but van der Dussen and Bavuma shut the tourists out.—AP