India vs South Africa 2021-22: After Gabba, Lord’s, India Register Complete Win In Centurion

Centurion: India’s year of consistent crescendos began at the Gabba, with a famous win and they wrapped up 2021 with their second fortress trophy — the breaching of Centurion.Ten minutes after lunch on the final day, with even the rain staying away, in keeping with the momentousness of the occasion, India had taken a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.

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This was as complete a win as you could imagine, all the parts coming together strongly enough to get past South Africa on a ground in which they have won 21 of the 26 matches before this game.It began with Virat Kohli winning the toss, but, while that was crucial, it would have meant absolutely nothing if India had not put the runs on the board once their captain made the positive call to bat first.

The first session was classic Test match cricket. Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul, not India’s first-choice openers, but entrusted with the task in the absence of Rohit Sharma, knew exactly how precarious India’s position was. Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have not been in the runs for the best part of two years and had India lost their openers cheaply South Africa’s bowlers would have been on the ascendency, applying pressure on an already struggling middle order.

India vs South Africa 2021-22: WTC 2023 Points Table After Centurion Win

While technique and temperament are undoubtedly crucial to scoring runs, the situation in which you are tasked with doing the job can be the difference between fluency and struggle. When the bowlers are applying the pressure, it becomes a matter of survival rather than bating. When the runs are not coming, batsmen cannot control the tempo of the game.

Instead, Rahul left the ball so well, forcing the bowlers to do the running. This meant that they to the batsman, and Mayank pounced. The opening partnership of 117 was only even broken in contentious circumstances, Mayank being given out lbw to a delivery that appeared to be slipping down leg and a bit high, via a DRS review that did not include the usual protocol of ascertaining where the ball had pitched, the point of impact on the pad and whether it would hit the stumps or not.

The next bright light for India was Rahane. When he walked out to bat at 199 for 3, Rahane began as though he was on 50, not zero. His thought processes were clear, his reading of length early and his placement spot on. When Rahane bats like this, he is a treat to watch and a headache for bowlers because he is relentlessly positive. Rahane does not make scratchy ones, just special ones in conditions that are difficult or bowling that is top quality. He looked well on the way to such a knock when he fell two short of a half-century.

A first-innings score of 327 may not look like a lot, but this was Centurion, where each run becomes dearer and dearer as the match draws on. Even the second day being washed out, did not deter India. A forecast of rain on the final day was not enough to force a deviation in the plans that was needed to win the Test match. Where South Africa’s fast bowlers had failed to read the spongy bounce on the first day, India’s quicks read the true surface to perfection.

Mohammad Shami was Kohli’s main man. He funnelled the ball in the close vicinity of the stumps, eight bringing it in a smidge, or moving it away precisely to take the outside edge. He was a captain’s dream.

With Jasprit Bumrah off the field thanks to a twisted ankle that looked horrendous but turned out to be only a sprain, Shami had to lift himself and carry the attack, and he did so with aplomb. Shami’s sixth five-wicket haul did not merely flatten South Africa, it put enough doubts in their minds for when the second innings came around.

India’s crumble for 174 in the second could be seen as a failing, but in the context of the match, it was more than enough. Set 305 to win, South Africa put in a vastly improved performance. But, given the quality of India’s attack, it would have taken a miracle to draw or win the game for the home team.

The only miracles came from Bumrah, who produced two freakish deliveries to keep India on track. Rassie van der Dussen got a heat-seeking missile that curved around the pad to hit the top of off and Keshav Maharaj, who was resisting bravely as nightwatchman had the base of his leg stump detonated.

On the final day, there was hope for South Africa, but, India systematically snuffed it out.

Their march to victory was a strong one, and, certainly, one for the ages.

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