Nagpur witnessed history when off-spinner Ashwin’s 12/98 helped India defeat South Africa by 124 runs in the 3rd Test to procure a 2-0 series lead in the 4 match series. This also meant that South Africa were handed their first-ever away defeat in Test series in nine years at the hands of Team India.
Winning the toss, India chose to bat and put up a par score of 215. Murali Vijay (40) was the highest run scorer with S. Harmer having the best bowling figures of 4/78. Indian spinners Ashwin (5/32) and Jadeja (4/33) demolished the South African batting line-up by getting them all out for a paltry score of 79. 2nd innings saw India having a lead of 136 before the start of their batting. South African bowlers came out strongly and this time bundled the home team’s batting unit for just 173 runs. The spin-friendly wicket helped opposition spinner Imran Tahir (5/38) to break through the Indian unit. Play entered Day 3 where South Africa needed 310 runs to win the match. The visitor team’s openers were again taken out by the spinners at the early stage of the game thereby putting pressure on the visitor team. The day progressed and the pitch kept on turning more significantly thereby resulting in the home team bowling out the opposition for 185 runs and winning the match by 124 runs. Ashwin spearheaded the attack with career-best figures of 7/66 and the game ending on the third day itself.
Here are the Indian players’ ratings –
Murali Vijay: 3/5
The Test opener continued his great form from the previous 2 Tests by scoring a respectable 40 runs in 84 balls (3 x 4’s, 1 x 6’s) in the first innings. Vijay stayed long at the crease without any particular trouble by the African bowlers, with confident shots played all around the park. Loose balls were greeted with open arms as he smashed boundaries at regular intervals. The second innings saw him tumble early at a mere score of 5. Vijay continues to find great starts to his innings but fails to convert those into a big score.
Shikhar Dhawan: 1/5
The aggressive left-hander has not been among runs as his scores in the 3rd Test convincingly tells the tale. With 12 & 39 runs being scored in both the innings, he fails to give India a good foundation, consistently. Throughout the series, he has not been much of a dangerous opener which he was once feared to be. He continued his aggressive approach in both innings as he smashed boundaries consistently and both the times he got carried away doing the same and ended up throwing his wicket away. He got out to spinners at both times while he was trying to play the same aggressive shots. To cement his place in the team, Shikhar Dhawan needs to control his approach and selectively take on the bowlers to get himself more time on the crease.
Cheteshwar Pujara: 3/5
The rock solid batsman has not been able to provide the huge runs which he was once known for. Although, he does not let the Proteas bowlers trouble him as his defensive technique is among the best seen in the Indian team but his own errors help the proteas get the better of him. In the first innings, Pujara scoring 21 played defensively with his shots dominating the leg side. The next innings saw a more aggressive side of him. This time, he scored in all parts of the ground while driving through the on field for boundaries regularly. The ball left his bat much fiercely as he scored 31 runs with 5 boundaries in his short but more aggressive time at the crease. Some amazing catches at short leg ensured the player was productive at the field too. Centuries from him would remain due as India would look up to him if it needs a huge total to be put up in the coming matches.
Virat Kohli: 3/5
With newly-appointed captaincy being another pressure for him apart from getting big scores individually, the skipper looked rather rusted in his batting tenure during both innings. The Indian audience is not used to see Virat Kohli’s return to the pavilion so early and the captain has been surprising them since a couple of matches. With 22 and 16 being his scores in the last match, his batting needs to improve if he desires to lead and inspire his team. Captaincy department has been handled spectacularly by Kohli. Starting the innings with spinners and aggressive field placements saw the South Africans getting out very frequently and, therefore, attaining the win by a wide margin of 124 runs. The deficiency in his batting department has been amazingly made up by his attacking captaincy throughout the match. Virat still needs to perform his primary duty as a batsman to keep his team out of trouble.
Ajinkya Rahane: 2/5
The great form from the ODI series was not continued in the tests as Rahane faltered in the early stages of his innings. The right-hander started his stint steadily in his first innings with runs being scored continuously along the off, leg and straight parts of the ground. However, the steady starts were not converted to big results. Fielding has been exceptional from this player throughout the series and continued in the similar fashion. With India having other middle order as substitutes, Rahane will have to find his way among runs to make his impact felt in his team and in the longer format of his International career.
Rohit Sharma: 1.5/5
India’s star opener in the shorter formats of the game finds it hard to gather runs in the biggest format. He has been struggling in the middle order since a long time and his test career is taking a toll consequently. Scoring just 2 in the first innings and 29 in the second, clearly Rohit Sharma has to check his technique (for Tests) or his batting order position in his team to get going in the scoring scene. Team India isn’t short of all-rounders and it won’t be long or surprising if and when the selectors decides to replace Sharma by a budding player.
W. Saha: 2/5
The wicket-keeper batsman is trying very hard the fill the void created by the retirement of M.S.Dhoni. In the first innings, Saha showed resilience. He could not score as many runs but kept the bowlers waiting. As a wicket-keeper, Saha looked a little on the sloppy side as a few chances were missed. The Bengal batsmen will have to contribute more towards the team by scoring more runs.
R. Jadeja: 3.5/5
The left-arm all-rounder is having a great comeback series. After almost a year’s break from the international Test circuit, Jadeja performed brilliantly with the bowl. With the spinner-friendly pitch coming in as assistance, the off-spinner broke through the opposition’s strong middle order. Seizing the opportunity, he even held a long partnership with Saha to trouble the African bowlers. Though, not having any purchases in the second innings, he held the proteas batting while bowling with accurate line and length.
R. Ashwin: 4.5/5
Team India’s best spinner proved his worth by making his career best performance of 12/98. The South African openers were taken out by the off-spinner at both instances. Taking full advantage of the turning pitch, he varied his line and length after almost every delivery to deceive the batsmen. Taking the most wickets (55) in 2015, Ashwin (later adjudged the Man of the Match) went atop every South African batsman and was even one of the least expensive bowlers of the match. With his purple patch rolling, Ashwin seems to be a major worry for the opposition and a major asset to the men in blue.
Amit Mishra: 3.5/5
Like the other two spinners, Mishra was not left behind in making purchases from the Nagpur turf. The leg-spinner ensured no partnership lasted long. With his match figures being 4/60, Mishra spinned his way out the South African batting order, especially in the second innings. His deliveries had the perfect line and length to keep the batsmen in mystery regarding where the ball might turn.
Ishant Sharma: 3/5
The most experienced pace bowler of India did not have much to play for in a wicket like that. With turf favouring spin, the pace bowler’s job was to keep the scores to the minimum and restrict the batsmen from rotating strikes which the speedster did very well.