It was a low-scoring affair at the New Lands in Cape Town with both South Africa and India unable to match the pace bowling show that was on offer with the pitch playing a huge role. In the end it was the first innings deficit that decided the game as India lost the first Test of the three-match series by 72 runs.
After being set a modest target of 208 runs, the Indian batting line-up collapsed like their opponents had done earlier on the day to fold out for a paltry 135 runs. South African pacers knew that they were in with a chance after seeing the Indian counterparts in action and extracted everything that the pitch had to offer. After getting off to a decent start with 30/0, for once it seemed India could wrap up the total, but South Africa pegged them back and there then was no return.
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The washout on the third day of the Test match changed the nature of the pitch and it was quite difficult to bat for both sides. 18 wickets fell on Day 4 as Virat Kohli’s men succumbed to the pressure of some great fast bowling. Also some of the Indian batsmen’s shot selection once again was questionable as their agony outside the sub-continent continued.
It took just two sessions for both teams to lose their wickets on an entertaining day at the New Lands. South African pacer Vernon Philander led the charge with a superb 6/42. He ended the Test with nine wickets in his bag and was awarded the man-of-the-match.
- The 6/42 in 2nd innings was Philander’s best figures in Test cricket
- His total tally was 9/75 in the Test match
- It was his 12th five-wicket haul over two innings in a Test
He was backed well by Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada as the trio were enough to get India all out, as the absence of Dale Steyn wasn’t felt at all in the 2nd innings. Philander lauded the bowlers as they stood up to the task despite missing Steyn. “Just a great atmosphere. Lot of the times you have one bowler get the praise, but the way the bowlers stuck to their guns after being a seamer down was superb,” said the pacer in the post-match conference.
Philander’s career best Test innings:
6/42 vs India, Cape Town, 2018
6/44 vs New Zealand, Hamilton, 2012
6/81 vs New Zealand, Wellington, 2012
The hosts were earlier shot out for just 130 runs in the morning session after they resumed on overnight total of 65/2. AB de Villiers made 35 runs as rest of the line-up folded cheaply. There was hope for India but after lunch, the hosts rose up with prominence never allowing the Indian batsmen to breathe easily. Kohli looked in fine touch during his 28-run stay on the pitch, but apart from him the other high-profile batsmen were consistently troubled.
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The agony of Shikhar Dhawan against the short ball continued as Murali Vijay failed to replicate his past magic of leaving balls outside the off-stump. Rohit Sharma struggled once again to continue his poor run overseas. India were reduced to 82/7 and after tea the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin (35) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (13*) hung on to add a 49-run stand. Once Ashwin’s wicket was achieved by Philander, he blew past the rest of the tail in a space of four deliveries to finish with a six-wicket haul. Morkel and Rabada picked two wickets apiece to silence the visitors.
If the Indian bowlers stood up to the task and bowled superbly, the batsmen failed to get any sort of partnerships going. Indian skipper Kohli highlighted how partnerships are crucial in Test cricket and the side will need to rectify the same.”We need to rectify our mistakes also. Mini collapses in both innings is something we have to think about, how to string in partnerships. This game is all about stringing in partnerships. They did that better than us,” said the 29-year-old.
India lost seven wickets inside 100 runs in both innings and that is not a pretty sight. That hurt the team badly along with the missed opportunities in the first innings, where they allowed South Africa to get to 286. Interestingly, India haven’t won a solitary Test in Cape Town and now will need to move on and put in a fight in the 2nd Test.