Hashim Amla has admitted the third Test in Nagpur against India, which South Africa lost by 124 runs, was the toughest of his career.
Amla praised the grit from his team but described the extreme conditions as the ‘three toughest days ‘ of his 87-match Test career, praising India’s spinners who took all 20 of South Africa’s wickets.
Although the batsmen put in a more concerted effort in the second innings following on from the paltry first-innings contribution, Amla admits the difference between the two teams has been the success of the Indian spinners, who were almost unplayable in favourable conditions.
‘There hasn’t been a hundred in the series yet,’ Amla said at the post-match press conference.
‘There have been a handful of fifties at least, in both teams, so it would be harsh to say that this South African team has struggled to score runs. I think if you look at the Indian team, although they are on the winning side, it’s been tough for their batters as well. Given the quality of spinners the Indians do have, obviously it’s going to be a lot tougher for us in these conditions.
‘These have probably been three of the toughest days I have experienced in my Test career. The surface was probably the toughest I have had as well, and the cricket itself was really difficult. So credit to India, they bowled well and unfortunately we ended up on the wrong side of this game.’
The series win for India also ends the Proteas’ nine-year unbeaten run away from home, and will no doubt shape and strengthen the characters leading the new era of South African Test cricket.
‘It is very disappointing,’ Amla said. ‘Fortunately, throughout my career, we’ve been travelling away and managing to play very good cricket. I suppose one kind of consolation would be that the conditions we’ve had to play in were probably nothing like we’ve had when we’ve played away from home, and that is a type of challenge we’ve never experienced before.
‘Just thinking back to when I first started, South Africa as a team almost looked very similar to what it is at the moment. We had some really great players in Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith who were probably at their prime at that stage and some young guns who were coming into the team, I think myself and AB [De Villiers] were around. At the moment our team is similar to that, we’re breeding a few younger guys coming in. But it is very disappointing to lose a series away from home after nine years and to be part of it, I hope it doesn’t happen again for us.’
India captain Virat Kohli said they expected South Africa to put up a fight in their second innings.
‘We expected them to string together a partnership or two, that is how Test cricket goes,’ Kohli said.
‘You need a little bit of patience with the ball. [Amit] Mishra showed great character to get wickets in back to back overs, first Amla and then [Faf] Du Plessis and that was the turning point for us.’
Kohli acknowledged that the pitch was challenging to bat on, but didn’t see it as a problem.
‘I think it was definitely a challenging wicket. Our batsmen applied themselves much better in Mohali from our side. It’s all about application I guess. You just have to take it in your stride and prepare accordingly and to go out there and play according to what the conditions are in front of you.
‘It shouldn’t be analysed too much because these are conditions that you do get in places in world cricket so I think our batsmen showed character in three of our four innings.’