Kohli and Co. Get A Taste Of The Upcoming 18 Months?

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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 17: Lungi Ngidi of the Proteas celebrates the wicket of Hardik Pandya of India with his team mates during day 5 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on January 17, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The Second Test between South Africa and India ended with the Hosts winning comprehensively by 135 runs in Centurion. The defeat means India have now lost the Test series with one Test to play and it also means that this is Virat Kohli’s first defeat in a Test series since taking over as Full-Time captain. I discuss the talking points from the second Test:

1. India’s Batting is a Cause of Serious Concern

Prior to the departure of the Indian team for South Africa, the onus was on the strong batting line-up to get India success on their forthcoming overseas tours. Fast forward to just over Eight days of Test Cricket, the batting has let India down massively. In Four innings so far, India have registered scores of 209, 135, 307 and 151. The top order has been found wanting. To put this into context, in those four innings, India have found themselves reeling at 92/7, 82/7, 164/5 and 87/7. These scores make for serious and concerning reading. Only two batsmen have made it past fifty in these four innings. India are in a spot of bother.
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2. India’s Bowlers Have Stepped Upto The Challenge

While the onus was on the batting line-up, there were concerns whether India’s bowlers could pick 20 wickets regularly, something that has plagued Indian Cricket overseas in the past. The bowlers, however, have risen to the challenge. They have ensured that South Africa have not got too far ahead, also covering the frailties of the Indian batsmen by keeping India in the game in both Tests. The wickets have been shared between the bowlers well and there is not an over-dependence on any one bowler. Shami has taken nine, Ashwin and Bumrah have taken seven, Bhuneshwar has six, Ishant has five and Pandya has three wickets on this tour so far.

3. South Africa Have Shown Why They Are A Top Side

In a series billed up as one between two heavyweights, South Africa have proved why they are a top side. Whenever put under pressure, they have found a way to elevate the pressure and turn it into a match-winning situation. Whether with the bat or the ball, South Africa have managed to win the 50-50 situations and add to it their sensational fielding, they have ensured India have their hands full. The fact that on a turning track it was a debutant who wreaked havoc, or the fact that they needed someone to steady the ship with the bat, South Africa always had an answer for whatever thrown at them. With players stepping up whenever the team needed saving, South Africa have proved their professionalism and efficiency.
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4. India Cannot Keep Committing Harakiri

South Africa though have been very professional, they have constantly been helped by the Indian batsmen throughout the series. Poor strokes in the First Test were coupled with shocking run-outs in the Second Test. Cheteshwar Pujara and Hardik Pandya were at the centre of two horrible run-outs which were beyond imagination. Pujara went for a suicidal run in the first innings and was caught well short of his crease, Pandya showed his arrogance when he failed to slide his bat and was caught short of his crease. Had one of them played more responsibly, India would have taken a lead and the complexion of the Test would have been way different.

Some of the shots in the second innings were unimaginable. KL Rahul and Pandya got out to wide deliveries giving catches by playing some ridiculous shots, India had no chance to get back in the Test and Yes, Pujara was run-out in the second innings too. It is safe to say that India gifted their wickets and made the South Africans’ jobs very easy.

5. Kohli and De Villiers Showed Why They Are The Modern Greats

Virat Kohli played one of his best Test innings yet in the first innings. 153 off 217 balls, scoring half of India’s 307, Kohli proved why he is termed as a Modern Great. Coming in at 28/2, he took matters into his own ends and set about rebuilding the innings. After ending Day Two at 183/5, Kohli went about his job aggressively and as wickets fell at the other end, he was determined to get as close to South Africa’s first innings total of 335 as possible. Being done by clever bowling from Vernon Philander in the First Test, South Africa used the same tactic but Kohli did not budge. This is perhaps one of his top three Test innings.
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AB de Villiers was again ridiculously sublime in the second innings. Coming in at 3/2 with the pitch playing all tricks, he showed his incredible range as a batsman. He not only batted aggressively but ensured he helped Dean Elgar play out a difficult spell of Ravichandran Ashwin. 80 off 121 balls, he deserved a hundred for the skill he showed everyone. He made sure South Africa did not collapse like the First Test and set up a target too steep for India.

6. India’s Selections Are Hurting Them

One of Virat Kohli and team management’s decisions has been under scrutiny was picking Rohit Sharma ahead of “Overseas Specialist” Ajinkya Rahane. This move has backfired immensely. Rohit so far has scores of 10, 11, 10 and 47 aggregating to 78 runs in four innings. His past record overseas is pretty poor and India have suffered especially since they have gone in with only five specialist batsmen. This could have been Rohit Sharma’s last Test for the foreseeable future and Virat Kohli must look at Rahane for the upcoming Tests.

Another move under siege was the exclusion of Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Ishant Sharma. Kumar picked the most wickets and faced the most deliveries in the First Test. While the thought was that Ishant would extract more bounce in Centurion and would be more effective in those conditions, you cannot drop your best bowler from the previous Test who offers a lot in batting too. While Parthiv Patel replaced Wriddhiman Saha due to Saha’s injury, he had a Test match to forget both with the gloves and the bat.

7. South Africa’s Seamers Are a Handful for Kohli and his Team

There is no respite from this quartet of South African seamers for India. They have been magnificent so far. The highlight so far has been debutant Lungisani Ngidi who broke India’s backs in the second innings of the Second Test. 6/39 in the second innings consisted wickets of Rahul, Kohli, Pandya and Ashwin. Kagiso Rabada has bowled his heart out and though his numbers are not the best, his performances have been world class. Vernon Philander, the hero of the First Test has not let India get away and Morne Morkel has been feisty in his short bursts.

With the Three Match Series already decided, India’s tag of underperforming overseas has come back to life again. They have been outplayed even though they have had chances to take control of both games. This has been coupled with poor shots, suicidal run-outs, iffy selections and poor scheduling too when you consider the team has not had any time to prepare for the conditions and used the time in a home series against Sri Lanka which helped no one. Will India turn it around and end the series with a consolation win in Johannesburg remains to be seen but India have a lot of issues to address and the next 18 months could be the same like these past two Tests if India do not learn quickly.

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