Proteas batting coach Dale Benkenstein says the class of AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis saved the Proteas from an embarrassing collapse.
Having won the toss and opted to bat, South Africa slumped to 12-3 after Bhuvneshwar Kumar ripped through the Proteas’ top order, dismissing Dean Elgar (0), Aiden Markram (5) and Hashim Amla (3) within 4.5 overs.
But De Villiers (65) and Du Plessis (62) then revived the innings with a crucial 114-run partnership and the Proteas went on to post 286.
Benkenstein admitted he was a worried man after half an hour of the Test.
‘Luckily our phones get taken away, or I would have been looking for an uber,’ he joked. ‘Being 12-3 is not a great feeling to have as a batting coach.
‘The class and genius of AB de Villiers, coupled with the tenacity of our captain [saved us],’ he added. ‘That partnership got us back in the game and got the belief back in the changing room.’
The Proteas’ highlighted the importance of the tail-enders before the match, and some good knocks from Vernon Philander (23), Keshav Maharaj (35), Kagiso Rabada (26) and Dale Steyn (16*) gave them something to defend.
‘Those runs down at the bottom, especially in tough batting conditions, were vital,’ Benkenstein said. ‘For me, it was about encouraging them to practice and to have a game plan.
‘As you can see, most of them can actually bat, it’s really about giving them the belief. Batting is a huge confidence game and knowing what type of conditions we were going to get out here, those runs were vital and hopefully it gives us a little cushion.’
The Proteas’ bowlers put India into a similar position going into day two, with the visitors struggling on 28-3 at stumps.
‘It was quite an intense day and the guys are very happy,’ said Benkenstein.
‘The conditions were very tough and it was a tough decision to make at the toss, with the overhead conditions telling us to bat first with the little bit of extra grass on the wicket.
‘We were under a lot of pressure, but at the end of the day, the guys were feeling positive.’
Photo: Khalid Mohidin/SA Cricket magazine