Indian cricket team experienced varied results in 2021, from four overseas Test victories to a premature exit in the ICC 2021 T20 World Cup. The men in blue have had the strength of rock on some occasions and the fragility of glass at other times.
The calendar has changed and so has the leadership group since the captain of limited-overs has changed and so has some personnel in the squad. But amid all of the changes, one very prominent aspect has remained constant – the perennial paradox that is the Indian national cricket team.
It has been about a week since India created history by winning a Test match at Centurion for the first time in history – at the third time of asking. The margin highlights the dominance Virat Kohli’s boys had over the proceedings with 113 runs.
However, having added Centurion to the list of overseas Test conquers alongside Gabba, Lord’s and the Oval, they now have lost a Test match at Wanderers for the first time after winning two and drawing three Test matches on this venue previously.
The track in Johannesburg, or more specifically the unreliable bounce, caught the Indians by surprise as they could only accumulate 202 runs. In response, the hosts were not particularly impressive either as they could only get a 27-run lead.
Rahul Dravid’s team performed much better in the second innings, accumulating 266 runs and setting a target of 240 for the Proteas while the target in itself did not look too daunting.But on a fourth-day pitch that looked heavily inclined in the pacers’ favour, it was expected to produce a nail-biting finish nonetheless.
Nails, however, were not bitten but the Indian bowlers did bite the dust in the fourth innings of the match as Dean Elgar made the run chase which happens to be the third-highest successful chase against India in Test cricket, looking like a cakewalk.
Let us have a look at in-depth analysis of all the major talking points from the game.
JAN-SENSATIONAL SPELL RATTLES INDIA EARLY ON
Ask any Indian batter to make a list of what they would like to avoid whilst playing Test cricket, and facing a tall pacer will come up top. Around six months after Kyle Jamieson picked up 7 wickets in the 2019-21 ICC World Test Championship final at Southampton, another tall speedster of almost similar height, Marco Jansen returned with four wickets in the first innings.
He gave the hosts their first breakthrough by dismissing Mayank Agarwal, while later on, he also got the better of KL Rahul. Just when Rishabh Pant was starting to find his footing, he sent the wicketkeeper back to the pavilion and then completed his four-fer by denying Ravichandran Ashwin what would have been his 12th Test half-century.
WHATEVER MORTALS CAN DO, LORD CAN DO BETTER
Having seen the likes of Jansen and Kagiso Rabada extract movement and bounce from the surface, India’s stand-in skipper KL Rahul would have expected his speed guns Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj to have a field day.
The bowler who did have a field day is a pacer nonetheless, but it perhaps will not be right to call him a speed gun, Shardul Thakur. Playing only his sixth Test match, the 30-year-old scalped seven wickets.
Dean Elgar became his first victim, while Keegan Petersen and Rassie van der Dussen followed suit soon. Wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne and limited-overs skipper Temba Bavuma managed to form a commendable partnership.But just when India needed him the most, Thakur provided the breakthroughs. He dismissed Verreynne, Bavuma, and Rabada in a span of four overs and then topped it all off with a peach of a delivery to dismiss Keshav Maharaj.
PUJARA-RAHANE LEADS THE INDIAN FIGHTBACK
Inside the macrocosmic paradox of Indian cricket are two microcosmic paradoxes – Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. The duo seemingly has an innate ability to come up with good performances in adverse situations, which is perhaps the number one reason behind their extended stay in the Indian Test XI.
Having lost Rahul and Agarwal early in the second innings, India needed a solid partnership which was provided by Pujara and Rahane. The former scored 53 runs while the latter amassed 58, courtesy of which India could put up a respectable total on the board for the Proteas to chase down.
ELGAR BECOMES THIRD TIME LUCKY AS SOUTH AFRICA SCRIPT HISTORY IN JOHANNESBURG
South Africa were given a 241-run target by India in a Johannesburg Test match back in 2018. Dean Elgar launched a one-man fight and remained unbeaten on 86 runs in that game, but had no one to support him from the other end.
A year later, another fantastic knock of 160 runs went in vain in a Test match that was played at Visakhapatnam. South Africa’s Test captain became third time lucky as his knock of 96 not out helped the Proteas clinch their first victory at the Wanderers.
The 34-year-old had to deal with bodyline bowling early on in his knock. But once set, every shot that came from his blade ranked sky high on the scale of cricket aesthetics. Overall, Elgar struck 10 boundaries to bring up what will be a memorable Test triumph for the Proteas.
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