Humbled by the underdogs

January 23, 2022

It was generally believed that this time India would win the Test series in South Africa, but the hosts turned out to be stronger than they looked

Humbled by the underdogs

When India landed in South Africa for a three-Test series, it was a general opinion that India would clean sweep the hosts. And the belief became stronger when India won the first Test quite convincingly.But the Proteas made a remarkable comeback in the series, beating India by seven wickets in the second match and by the same margin in Cape Town.

South Africa became only the fifth team in Test history with two consecutive successful 200-plus chases in a series. The last instance was by India in a home series against Australia in 2010.

It was only the fourth time in 45 occasions when India lost the Test series after winning the first Test. India lost home series against England twice after taking a 1-0 lead in 1984-85 and 2012. The same happened in South Africa in 2006-07.

The home side were underdogs because of the lack of experience. South Africa, sixth in the International Cricket Council Test rankings, beat top-ranked India.

Virat Kohli and company missed a huge opportunity of ending their winless series-streak on South African soil.

India have now played seven Test series in South Africa, losing six and drawing one.

India have managed only three wins in Test matches in South Africa.

Tourists have always found it difficult to take down the Proteas in their own backyard in the longest format of the game.

The Test series was a battle between the pace attacks of the two teams. Except Kagiso Rabada, their pacers had not played more than 10 Test matches. They did not have the services of Anrich Nortje who had taken 28 wickets in his last six Test matches.

The hosts' pacers took 59 wickets in the series at an average of 20.13.

The more experienced Indian fast bowlers managed 46 wickets at an average of 24.58.

After being beaten in South Africa, India are fifth in the ICC Test Championship while South Africa moved to fourth place.

Sri Lanka stand at the top with two wins from two matches. Australia and Pakistan are in second and third positions.

South Africa's Keegan Petersen remained the most successful batsman of the series with 276 runs, averaging 46 with three fifties. For India, Kannur Lokesh Rahul scored 226 runs at an average of 37.66. He hit one hundred and one fifty.

Rabada took 20 wickets at an average of 19.05. Jansen and Ngidi were behind him with 19 and 15 wickets, respectively.

For India, fast bowler Mohammad Shami managed 14 wickets at an average of 21.

It was a disappointing series for the spinners. Only four wickets were taken by spinners - three by Ravichandran Ashwin and one by Keeshav Maharaj.

After the disappointing Test series loss, skipper Kohli stepped down. Kohli was appointed Test captain in 2015 when MS Dhoni stepped down in the middle of the series against Australia.

The 33-year-old Kohli has had a difficult relationship with the BCCI since stepping down as the Twenty20 captain in September last year after the World Cup defeat. He lost the ODI captaincy as BCCI named opener Rohit Sharma as captain in both the short formats.

His seven-year tenure as Test captain ends with 40 wins in 68 matches, which makes him the most successful Indian Test captain ever. He won 16 Tests abroad.

Kohli captained India to victory in every home series, the last being in December 2021 against New Zealand. He won Test series in Sri Lanka, West Indies and twice in Australia.

Kohli failed to win a series in South Africa in two attempts. He also lost a series each in England and New Zealand.

During his tenure India became the No 1 side in the ICC's Test rankings and reached the final of World Test Championship in which they were beaten by New Zealand at Southampton in June last year.

Kohli has played 99 Tests and scored 7,962 runs at an average of 50.39. He has struck 27 Test centuries but his last three-figure score in red-ball cricket for his country came in November 2019, 15 matches and 27 innings ago. He missed the second Test in South Africa and managed a top score of 79 during the series.

Humbled by the underdogs