In an unkind turn of events, the Proteas’ reputation as the best Test side in the world has taken a big knock down the leg side – a situation that only the best spin doctors in the world can try to fix!
If you think the above sentence is cheesy, then you must have not seen South Africa’s performance against India in the third Test in Nagpur, where we lost, yet again, by 124 runs. The stand-out feature of this match was the pitch – how poor it was, and how virtually impossible it was to bat on because of how sharply the ball turned on it.
It turned out not to be a batting wicket, and it deteriorated as the overs went by – prompting Radio 2000’s commentators to label it a “fifth-day wicket” as early as Day 1!
So, upon winning the toss, India captain Virat Kohli cleverly opted to bat first, and sent his ‘Men In Blue’ (dressed in white on this occasion) to the middle when the pitch was still at its relative best. This turned out to be the match-winning decision for the hosts, as they scored a competitive 215 all out in their first innings – a score that turned out to be the highest in the match.
So, it was not exactly a batting wicket and India were also aided by the fact that they have some world class spinners at their disposal, but the questions that strike my mind are: shouldn’t the ‘no.1 ranked Test team’ be able to withstand whatever conditions they come across? Isn’t that the kind of stuff “best” are made of? These are just some of the questions I ask myself.
Our batsmen were made to look like amateurs by the spin of the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin; and our attack, though not as poor as our batting, did have moments when they were hit all over the park on the not-so-batter-friendly wicket.
To top it all off, it appeared that it was not only on the pitch where all the poor decisions were being made – but also off it. Tail-ender Imran Tahir was twice made “night watchman”, where he was pushed up all the way to number 2 in the order for the last few overs of the day – only for him to be dismissed before the end of the day’s play on both occasions.
According to the vague explanation I heard from the commentators, the “watchman” is supposed to last for at least the rest of the day’s remaining overs, and then come back the next morning to bat for as long as he can. The concept still doesn’t make sense to me, though, because in the Proteas’ context, it has only meant that we cheaply lose an early wicket.
It has been a horrible series for us South Africans so far, one that we have now lost, as the scoreboard now reads 2-0. Our record of not losing a series away from home in nine years has also been broken in the process, what a shame!
The fourth and last Test – which will now be a dead rubber – starts on the 3rd of December. Don’t expect it to last five days.