South Africa vs India 2018, 3rd Test - 5 Things which went right for India
When the third and final Test match of the Freedom Series started, it might have seemed like a dead rubber with South Africa 2-0 up. However, there was a lot to play for both teams.
India, who were pretty good in the first two Test matches, needed to show that they can deliver away from home, while South Africa would’ve wanted to continue their winning momentum and also close down the gap on the No. 1 Test ranking.
India won the toss and elected to bat first on a green pitch and on the back of the fifties from Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara helped them score 187. A good show from the fast bowlers then helped the visitors to bundle out South Africa for 194 conceding a slender 7-run lead.
The pitch was playing its tricks as there was a lot of assistance for the fast bowlers and it also started exploding from a good length. In the second innings, it got tougher to bat and India got to 247 thereby setting the hosts a tough target of 241 in the fourth innings.
With the pitch playing a lot of tricks with balls of a good length exploding and batsmen taking quite a few blows on the hand and the ribs, the umpires were concerned about the state of the pitch. Also, Dean Elgar coped a blow on the helmet which prompted the umpires to call off play late on day 3 (with about 17 minutes to go).
And when play resumed on day 4 with South Africa at 17/1, India were favourites to clinch a very good win. However, after overnight rain delayed the start of the fourth day’s play, the pitch had surprisingly eased out and the venomous nature wasn’t evident until late in the second session. At 124/1, things seemed a little flat for India, but an inspired spell from Bumrah and Ishant opened the floodgates and a collapse followed as South Africa were bowled out for 177.
This win helped India maintained an unbeaten record at Johannesburg. India fought superbly and eventually came out on top (winning by 63 runs) and ended the series 2-1.
All in all, Johannesburg produced another thrilling Test match between South Africa and India.
#5 Taking a few brave decisions
After the Centurion pitch played subcontinent-like, everyone expected the Wanderers pitch (in Johannesburg) to have a decent amount of grass covering. Also, it is one of the fastest pitches in the world. Hence, fast bowlers were going to be key for both sides.
Hence, both teams opted for a five-pronged pace attack leaving out their spinners. However, it was surprising to see India leave out a spinner. It was the first time they had fielded an XI without any spinner since January 2012 and it was the third time since 1990. But their decision to leave out the spinner was justified after they saw the pitch favouring the fast bowlers considerably.
It was a brave call to bat first on a green pitch under overcast conditions. Skipper Virat Kohli was criticised for his decision at the toss. But it was another call that was justified as the cracks started widening and the pitch started misbehaving pretty early in the game.
Also, with the pitch playing a lot of tricks on day 3, the umpires were pretty concerned. A few deliveries were just taking off and hitting the batsmen hard on the gloves. However, Kohli wanted to continue playing. Even after he got out, he was seen indicating to the batsmen (Rahane and Bhuvneshwar) to continue batting when the umpires converged to discuss the pitch. The Indian batsmen were gutsy in the second innings as they took blows on the body and battled it out.
All these calls were brave, and they went in India’s favour.