India beats South Africa thanks to Rahul, Shami and Bumrah

By Kersi Meher-Homji

What a fantastic start of the series and a fabulous end of the Year 2021! In the first Test in Centurion, India defeated the home team by 113 runs.

Winning the toss India scored 327 runs. Opening batters Lokesh Rahul (123 with 17 fours and a six) and Mayank Agarwal (60 with 9 fours) added 117 runs. Cheteshwar Pujara was out for a first ball duck. Then Ajinkya Rahane played a solid innings of 48 and skipper Virat Kohli 35.

South Africa’s pace bowlers Lungi Ngini (6 for 71) and Kagiso Rabada (3 for 72) were the wicket takers.

South Africa (SA) started poorly against the Indian fast bowlers and were 4 down for 32. Then Temba Bavuma (52 runs) and Quinton de Kock (34) added 72 valuable runs. With Mohammed Shami capturing 5 for 44 and Jasprit Bumrah and Shardul Thakur claiming two wickets each SA was bowled out for 197, trailing India by 130 runs.

On a greenish pitch SA’s quickies Rabada (4 for 42), Marco Jansen (4 for 55) and Ngini (2 for 31) bowled with venom and India could make only 174. Rishabh Pant was the sole Indian batter to play well scoring an aggressive 34 enriched with 6 fours.

Set 305 for an unlikely win, SA totaled 191 and lost by 113 runs. Their skipper and opening batter Dean Elgar (77 gritty runs with 12 fours) and Bavuma (35) put up a fight but it was not enough. The bowling heroes for India were Bumrah (3 for 50), Shami (3 for 63) and Mohammed Siraj (2 for 47).

The only spinner to do well in the match was off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin who captured the last two wickets off successive balls.

By scoring a splendid century, opener Lokesh Rahul was adjudged Player of the Match. What a coincidence: He was a centurion at Centurion!

He said at the presentation, “It was just grit and determination, I really wanted to get my team off to a good start. The opening stand was crucial. It’s been more about my mindset, I have worked a little bit on my technique, working really hard on my game when I was out of the team for a couple of years. It’s all coming together now. The discipline I think is the biggest contributor. Virat just mentioned that our fast bowlers have shown great heart, not just today but over the last two-three years. It’s still the first game of the series, we want to take this confidence into the series and win another Test in a few days’ time.”

The winning captain Virat Kohli added: “We got off to a perfect start we wanted to. Getting the result in four days shows how well we played. It’s always a difficult place, South Africa, but we were clinical with bat, ball and in the field. A lot of credit goes to Mayank and KL [Rahul] and we were in pole position at 270 for 3 after day one. We had a lot of belief in our bowling unit to get the job done. We spoke about it in the change room… Just the way these guys bowl together, it’s just a hallmark of our team getting a result from that position. Shami is an absolutely world-class bowler, among top three seam bowlers in the world for me. Very, very happy for him to get 200 wickets and have an impactful performances.”

India leads the three Test series 1-0. The second Test starts at Johannesburg on Monday, 3rd January 2022.

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