India took a 1-0 lead in the series after beating South Africa by 108 runs inside three days in the first Test in Mohali on Saturday.
Chasing 218 for an unlikely victory, South Africa were dismissed by India’s spin trio for 109 after a dismal batting performance. In the end, only Stiaan van Zyl (36) looked up for the challenge of batting on a pitch that played a few mind tricks on his teammates.
Hats off to India, they prepared a pitch perfectly suited to their strengths and then gave R Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja (5-21) licence to dominate the game.
South Africa said they expected surfaces like this one in the series, but it’s almost as if they gave the pitch too much credit. They didn’t apply themselves correctly and played the conditions rather than the ball.
Too many wickets were lost after the batsmen offered no shot. While India did bowl well they didn’t do anything special or work particularly hard to get their wickets.
Van Zyl and Simon Harmer (11) offered South Africa a flicker of hope of forcing play into day four by sharing a 42-run partnership, but it came to nothing after Harmer edged one to slip of Jadeja. Van Zyl played well for his 36, but he too edged one to slip, this time off Ashwin.
Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir didn’t last long as India wrapped things up quickly after Van Zyl got out.
India’s spin trio ripped through South Africa’s top order in the second session, the touring side left reeling as they went to tea on 56-5.
The Proteas batsmen were guilty of playing the conditions rather than the each ball on it’s merit. Yes, this was a turning pitch with plenty on offer for the spinners, but ironically most of the South Africans fell to deliveries which did less than the batsmen were anticipating.
In a surprising move Vernon Philander was chosen to open the batting with Dean Elgar, Van Zyl moving down the order where he has played most of his cricket.
The move failed as Philander got trapped lbw off the seventh ball of the innings to Jadeja. Faf du Plessis (1) and Hashim Amla (0), two of the better players of spin in the side, offered nothing.
Du Plessis played forward to a straight one, got the edge and was caught by Ajinkya Rahane at slip off Ashwin. Amla’s dismissal was even worse, the captain leaving a delivery which went on to crash into his stumps. He misjudged the ball completely, expecting it to turn which it didn’t.
Elgar and De Villiers (16) got a little partnership going and at 32-3 South Africa still had hope as long as he was at the crease. But De Villiers, staying positive and looking for scoring opportunities with every ball, misjudged the length of a Amit Mishra delivery, getting an inside edge onto his stumps.
He should have played forward instead of on the back foot and was perhaps guilty of too much premeditation rather than playing each ball on it’s merits.
Elgar got a leading edge playing across the line to give seamer Varun Aaron his first wicket of the match.
After a brilliant performance from their spinners, South Africa bowled India out for 200, setting themselves a target of 218 on a turning wicket in Mohali.
Simon Harmer (4-61) and Imran Tahir (4-48) took the last two wickets after lunch on Saturday for 15 runs.
South Africa’s spinners came to the party in a big way in the first session as India lost six wickets for 24 runs to go to lunch on 185-8.
The morning session started slowly for the touring side with no Steyn and Tahir in the attack. All the action transpired in the hour before lunch to radically turn the game on it’s head.
India’s implosion was started by an unlikely source when Van Zyl claimed the big wicket of Virat Kohli, who nicked one behind to the keeper for 29.
It took Amla an hour and 15 minutes to introduce Tahir to the attack, the captain seemingly not comfortable having him bowl to Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. As soon as Kohli fell, Tahir got a go.
The leg-spinner made an immediate impact, having Pujara caught for 77 at slip. It was the second quick wicket and another one was on it’s way. Harmer struck after Temba Bavuma, on the field for the injured Steyn, took a brilliant one-handed catch to get rid of Rahane for two.
It was the Harmer and Tahir show, the former removing Jadeja and Mishra in consecutive overs before Tahir had Ashwin caught at first slip by Amla.