South Africa beat India in the three-match Test series on Friday by a margin of 2-1. While India won their first Test match in Centurion, they lost the next two matches in Johannesburg and Cape Town, each by seven wickets.
Former South African player Shaun Pollock believes the visitors' batting let them down and that they lost both matches in the third innings of the Tests.
Reviewing the series for Cricbuzz, Pollock said:
“I think where India lost it in the series twice [second and third match], is in the third innings. They needed to get a big score. I think they may be were lured in that over 200 would be enough, whereas I think they could have posted a lead of 300 on both occasions. South Africa wouldn’t have been able to chase that.”
In the second Test, India lost their last five wickets for 82 runs. Similarly, they lost last six wickets for 46 runs in the third Test.
The poor run of their middle order and inconsistency of their veteran batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane has come under serious scrutiny.
Former Indian batter Dinesh Karthik also believes the same. He believes the visitors had a fabulous chance to win their first Test match series in South Africa.
“They came in with confidence after the England series and the New Zealand series in India. And then come and do this in South Africa! They went 1-0 up [in the series] and from there to lose, I think it will be a tough one for the coach and captain for some time because they really fancied themselves."
“I think the batting let them down, and most importantly in both the Tests, the third innings when they batted, that’s when things went a little out of shape. They lost wickets in cluster.”
Pollock and Karthik believe that they will make some changes going forward, especially replacing Pujara and Rahane.
“India might have to make those calls. I think timing is the key. If you've got two tests against Sri Lanka, followed by two tests against someone else who's not ranked in the top three or four, it's almost like you create a bit of a honeymoon period where players have an opportunity to settle in.”
Despite India losing the series, there were some amazing individual performances. At least one fast bowler took a five-wicket haul in each of the three Tests i.e. Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami. The two centuries in the series were also hit by the visitors' batters - KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant.
“KL Rahul’s hundred in the first Test was outstanding. I think Shardul Thakur’s performance in the second Test stood out. Rishabh Pant’s hundred here [in third Test] also was brilliant. I am not speaking about Bumrah and Shami because they are the usual suspects.”
He further went on to praise Rahul’s century:
“Especially KL’s knock on a tough wicket in Centurion stood out for me.”
Pollock, however, questioned the visitors' tactics in the second session after lunch when South Africa needed 41 runs for victory.
“Thakur was brilliant at Wanderers, as well those two bowlers [Bumrah and Shami]. But, I was surprised that they didn’t bowl in the session after lunch break. It was almost like a bit of donation like here you go, you have won the game.”
Next on the schedule, the ODI series between the two teams starts on January 19.