SA v IND, 2018: Highlights from India’s tour of South Africa
Those who followed cricket in South Africa past couple of months would have been thoroughly entertained with the quality of cricket on display. Two of the best sides in the world gave nothing away in the high octane tour which covered all three format of the game.
The visitors relentlessly challenged the South African domination on their home soil, a feat only a few visiting teams managed to achieve. The tour was filled with runs, wickets, and electric catches and ground fielding, to keep the viewers overawed.
With curtains drawing on India’s tour of South Africa, let us look at some of the defining moments from the game, fans would vividly remember in the years to come.
Evolution of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah
Before the start of the year, the double B’s of Indian bowling, Bhuvi, and Bumrah, were considered indispensable in the limited overs circuit. The Indian management went ahead with the likes of Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav in red-ball cricket.
Bumrah was given a surprise call-up into the playing XI in the Cape Town Test. After spraying a few balls in the first innings, Bumrah learned the tricks of the trades almost instantly in the second innings.
Not only did Bumrah ended up with the second most number of wickets in the Test series for India, but he also held the reputation of being a giant killer. The likes of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, and Quinton de Kock had the name of Bumrah in the dismissal column consistently.
On the other hand, Bhuvneshwar Kumar grew leaps and bounds in stature as far as all-round credentials are concerned. Bhuvi contributed lower down the order, almost everytime he took the guard for his country.
The UP speedster took wickets almost everytime with the new ball in the Test matches. Following an uneventful ODI series with the ball, Bhuvi came back strongly to pick up his maiden five-wicket haul in the Jo’Burg T20I. The Sunrisers retained bowler also picked up the man of the series award for his performances in T20Is.
With their performances in the South African tour, the double B’s of Indian bowling might well have designated themselves as India’s premier all format bowlers.
Virat Kohli going a level above the rest
With more than 800 runs in the South African tour in all formats, Virat Kohli skipped a level above the best of the world. Kohli started off the tour with brilliant 153 at Centurion to shut his critics up regarding his shortcomings to play the fifth stump line on an overseas tour.
Kohli scored precious 52 and 41 on a poorly rated pitch at Jo’burg which came during a difficult time for batsmen. He was the only player to score a century in the Test series.
He led by example by pushing the South Africans on the backfoot with the bat with his imperious tons at Durban, Centurion, and Cape Town. The ton machine also struck a couple of important half-centuries which helped India seal the deal at Port Elizabeth and Centurion again.
Virat Kohli critics might well hibernate for some time now after yet another splendid overseas tour following his breakthrough Australian series in 2014.
Historic win at Jo’Burg
The win at Jo’burg would always be rated highly in Kohli’s tenure as the India captain. After losing the matches at Cape Town and Centurion comprehensively, the men in blue came back and won the match at Wanderer handsomely to avoid a whitewash.
Over the years, Indians have tended to crumble under pressure with the series already lost, thereby succumbing to a whitewash.
With their backs against the walls, Virat Kohli and his men displayed tremendous character to salvage their pride and redeem the series with the scoreline at 2-1.
This win also flared the beginning of the South African string of losses in the subsequent ODI series. The moral of the Proteas went spiraling down after the loss in the third Test match.
The surface at Wanderers was tough to bat on. The play was halted sometimes with the batters getting hit on the gloves repeatedly. Kohli’s men exhibited tremendous valor to overcome all the difficulties on a pitch where even the hosts refused to play on.
AB de Villiers’ masterclass
Even though the tri-format Indian tour won’t be remembered for a flurry of runs from AB de Villiers’ blade, the modern maestro played a couple of significant knocks which changed the tide towards South Africa’s favor.
With three wickets down and only 11 on board, India was all over South Africa with the opening spell from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. If it not had been the counterattacking innings of 64 from AB de Villiers, the result of the series might have been different.
De Villiers, who was coming back into Test Cricket after a long lay off, did not display any signs of rust against India at Cape Town. This goes to show that for AB not only is his class remains permanent but also is his form.
His cameo at the rain-shortened match at Jo’burg paved the way for the likes of Klassen and Miller on how to deal with wrist spin which created havoc within the South African camp. For Mr. 360, it was only about quality and not quantity this Indian tour due to his untimely injuries.
The ODI leg between India and South Africa belonged to the two Indian wrist spinners hands down. Post-Champions Trophy, Virat Kohli, and the think thank have had an affinity towards wrist-spinning options of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav which meant that seasoned campaigners such as Ravichandran Ashwin And Ravindra Jadeja had no choice but to sit out when it comes to colored clothing for India.
The two leggies were only tested in the subcontinental conditions of India and Sri Lanka. In fact, Kuldeep was introduced in West Indies for a few ODIs.
However, their acid test arrived in the foreign conditions of South Africa, which had a reputation of being seamer friendly.
On the contrary, the two wrist-spinners made the uncharted territory of South Africa their own by claiming 33 wickets in between them. Even after six games, the Proteans appeared at sea every time they faced the two spinners in tandem.
With their performance in the ODIs, Kuldeep and Chahal made the announcement worldwide that they are here to stay at the International level and will be a force to reckon with, coming to the World Cup in England.
Shikhar Dhawan’s dominance
The magic from the likes Virat Kohli, Kuldeep and Chahal might have overshadowed Shikhar Dhawan’s dominance on the South African tour.
One may question his abilities in Test cricket when it comes to foreign conditions, but there is no doubt he is one of the best produced by India in limited overs format, both at home and overseas.
The southpaw has compiled as many as 466 runs across the ODIs and T20Is which consisted of a century and three half-centuries. The quickfire starts he provided took the South Africans onto the backfoot early on in the games.
Dhawan now has runs to his name in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
South African batting depth
The batting reserves of South Africa have been found wanting in the absence of their key players, namely, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock.
With injuries ruling out the cream from the South African squad, the backup could not quite come up with performances to show. The likes of Khaya Zondo, JP Duminy, Aiden Markram, David Miller, struggled throughout the ODI series.
This calls for change in selection policies within the administration. The Proteas need to look at whether the team steps out with the best XI available. Time has come for the CSA to look at their reservation systems during selections of their squads.
T20I revolution from South Africa
Compared to the ODI series, the hosts displayed tremendous character to give a fight to a stronger looking Indian unit. This came through few new names who impressed one and all in the T20I leg of the series.
In the absence of Quinton de Kock, who had a forgetful Test as well as the ODI series, Heinrich Klaasen’s knocks at Jo’burg and Centurion showed that the wicketkeeping batsman department is in safe hands.
This should also give a stiff competition to a world-class batsman like Quinton de Kock who looked out of sorts throughout the Indian tour.
Furthermore, the likes of Keeza Hendricks, Junior Dala, Christiaan Jonker came up with spirited performances in the T20Is, to make a case for themselves in the ODI squad.
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