Sharma scintillates and India whitewashes South Africa 3-0

By Kersi Meher-Homji

The just concluded 3-Test series between India and South Africa for the Gandhi-Mandela Trophy was the most one sided and mis-matched series I have watched between two strong countries.

India thumped South Africa by an innings and 202 runs in three days and seven minutes at Ranchi to win the series comfortably as if sitting on a sofa!

India had thrashed SA by 203 runs in the first Test at Visakhapatnam and thumped them at Pune last week by an innings and 137 runs in the second Test.

Not once could South Africa dismiss India in an innings as India declared at 7 for 502 and 4 for 323 at Visakhapatnam, 5 for 601 at Pune and 9 for 497 at Ranchi. Indian bowlers captured all 20 South Africa’s wickets in these three Tests.

As India’s happy coach Ravi Shastri commented after skipper Virat Kohli held the Trophy, “To take all 20 wickets in a Test is like driving a Ferrari car!” And India “drove Ferraris”  in all three Tests.

To sum up the difference between the two sides in this series, South Africa lost 60 wickets for 1381 runs, at 23 runs per batsman. On the other hand India amassed 1923 runs losing only 25 wickets which works out at 77 runs per batsman. A difference of 54 runs per batsman is huge.

Against 66 South African batsmen and extras managing only 1381 runs at 23 runs each, five Indian batsmen (Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, skipper Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara) amassed 1614 runs at 101 runs each.

Wow, that’s mega superiority!

Sharma scored 529 runs at an average of 132.25, Agarwal 340 at 85.00, Kohli 317 at 158.50, Rahane 216 at 72.00 and Jadeja 212 at 70.66. The best from South Africa was Dean Elgar with 232 runs at 46.40.

Against seven centuries (including three double centuries) by Indian bats, South Africa could make only two, 160 by Dean Elgar and 111 by Quinton de Kock.

Indian bowlers, both fast-medium and spinners, contributed as significantly for India’s facile wins as their batsmen. Although opening batsman Rohit Sharma was voted both Man of the Ranchi Test and Man of the Series, bowlers Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin contributed equally to India’s stunning victories.

Now to the details of the final Test at Ranchi:

India won the toss again and declared at 9 for 497. Starting poorly, India had lost 3 for 39 including the wicket of Kohli. But Rohit Sharma (212 runs with 28 fours and six sixes) put on 267 runs for the fourth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (115). Later Jadeja hit 51 and tail-ender Umesh Yadav 31 off 10 balls including 5 sixes.

South Africa was dismissed for 162 and 133 to lose by an innings and plenty. In the second innings, opening batsman Dean was concussed when a fast ball hit him on the helmet. In his place 12th man Theunis de Bruyn batted and top-scored with 30.

Speedsters Shami and Umesh were outstanding but the bowler who raised maximum interest was debutant left-arm spinner Shabaz Nadeem who took valuable wickets including the last two on the final morning off two balls. The last wicket to fall was bizarre. Lungi Ngidi hit Nadeem’s delivery which struck non-striker Anrich Nortje on his wrist. The popped up ball was caught by Nadeem on rebound.

With this victory India has an astronomical lead in the ICC World Championship table. They have 240 points in five matches. Between them the other countries (New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, England, West Indies and South Africa) have accumulated only 232 points in 19 matches.

Another big “WOW” on India’s superiority!

No wonder skipper Virat Kohli was over the moon at the presentation, saying, “Amazing. You guys have seen how we’re playing. Making things happen on pitches that don’t seem to offer too much, is something we’re very proud of. Even when we travelled away from home, we wanted to compete. Getting into the right kind of mindset is something these guys have worked really hard to get into. Looking at the way these guys run in to bowl, or even in the field, you can see that mindset.

“To be the best side in the world, you have to be multi-dimensional. Spin was always our strength, batting was never a problem for us. Ishant was the only experienced bowler for us. We said we can play an extra bowler, and as batsmen we said we’ll get the job done. We’ve got runs in every Test match, our catching has been good too.”

Man of the Match and Series Rohit Sharma was equally ecstatic as he told commentator Sanjay Manjrekar, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to the management for that opening slot. I can take a lot of positives about how to counter the new ball. The new ball is always a threat and to be able to counter that will be a huge positive. I can take my game forward from that. Discipline at the start in white-ball cricket too. Yeah, it’s something that started in 2013 when I started opening in white-ball cricket.

“I realised you need some discipline at the start of the innings. It’s a template to my batting that allows me some success to my batting. I believe that I can do that for the team, and there are lots of aspects that you need to be mindful of when you’re opening. The support of the coach and captain helps. Double hundreds in Test cricket is a different game. Getting that big score will give confidence moving forward. I always believe that once you are settled, it is only mistakes that can get you out.”

Bravo, Team India.

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