Pant brilliant but poor batting by others cost India Test and series

By Kersi Meher-Homji

There is no disgrace in losing if one fights till the end but the way India batted on the third day of the crucial Cape Town Test was disgraceful. Exceptions were Rishabh Pant who scored a fantastic unbeaten century and skipper Kohli who defended grimly for 143 minutes. Many of the Indian batsmen threw away their wickets in a hurry. Why this hurry? It was a 5-day Test, not a Twenty20 tamasha.

It was as if they were giving fielding practice to the South African wicket-keeper and fielders! All the lower order batsmen had to do was to defend a ball or two each over and leave the rest to the fantastic “Pantastic” Pant who was in total control. But no! They got out to irresponsible T20 shots.

The third and final Test at the picturesque Cape Town was a series decider as India had won the first Test at Centurion by 113 runs and South Africa the second Test at Johannesburg by 7 wickets.

Winning the toss India batted in the final Test scoring 223 runs. Kohli was the top-scorer with 79 runs inclusive of 12 fours and a six while Cheteshwar Pujara batted steadily for 43. Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada took 4 for 73. Interestingly, all Indian batsmen were caught.

In reply, South Africa made 210, trailing India by 13 runs. Keegan Petersen scored an eye-catching 72 enriched with 9 fours. Jasprit Bumrah was the chief wicket-taker grabbing 5 for 42.

At that stage I gave India a good chance to win the Test and the series. But I was proved wrong by India’s feeble batting, Pant and Kohli excepted, of course. Pant (100 not out with 6 fours and 4 sixes) and Kohli (29) made 129 runs between the two. Extras contributed 28 runs. The remaining nine Indian batsmen were dismissed for a miserable 41 runs. Disappointing performance by world-class batsmen Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Lokesh Rahul contributed to India’s fall.

Despite Pant dominating the strike to protect the tail-enders, they got out to shocking strokes. All they had to do was to play a ball or two defensively and leave the rest to Pant. But no, they wanted to play atrocious shots and gave away their wickets. Pace bowlers Marco Jansen, Rabada and Lungi Ngidi were the main wicket takers.

The selfless Pant became the first Indian wicket-keeper to score a century in South Africa.

In this Test all 20 Indian batsmen were caught, probably a Test record.

Needing 212 runs to win, South Africa reached the target easily with seven wickets and a day and a half to spare. Keegan Petersen again top-scored with an elegant 82 (including 10 fours) while van der Dussen contributed an unbeaten 41. Petersen was adjudged Person of the Match and Person of the Series.

Keegan Petersen said at the presentation, “I don’t know how I feel, it hasn’t sunk in yet. Happy, emotional but just grateful to have had the opportunity. I took every little positive I can from every innings and build on that. It’s been a tough journey, not easy. Have had to stick to my guns and fight it out. It’s been a long journey, can’t really tell the whole story right now. It’s not been easy even coming into Tests; challenging wickets, changing conditions, have had to deal with what has been in front of me. We’ve always had to tough it out against a high-quality bowling attack, high-quality team. Just spending time at the wicket is crucial. Evident longer you bat, easier it gets. I enjoyed every moment of it.”

Well played Keegan. Well said Keegan.

India has yet to win a Test series in South Africa. They got close this time but brainless batting in the second innings of the final Test undid their previous solid efforts.

The first of the three One Day Internationals starts next Wednesday, the 19th

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