The glorious Table Mountain instead stayed witness to how a young and relatively inexperienced South African team stamped its authority in style on Day Four of the final Test at Newlands on Friday afternoon. Under a clear sky, chasing 212 for victory, they won the Test by seven wickets and with an air of absolute brilliance.
Keegan Petersen, a South African ‘KP’ who’s theirs to keep, led from the front. Precariously placed at 101-2, and with the ball still new, the hosts began Day Four on a cautious note. There was enough bounce in the wicket and chances kept getting created.
Luck deserted India and the rest was consumed by Petersen’s elegant and determined 113-ball 82. He shuffled at the crease, saw a sitter get dropped in the slips by Pujara off a tireless Jasprit Bumrah and came extremely close to edging the moving ball.
But he stayed on. And the moment he found the space to settle, some glorious drives, punched on the front and backfoot, gradually took the session, day and match away from the visitors. Petersen eventually left and Temba Bavuma walked in to finish off the game with Rassie van der Dussen in style.
Dean Elgar, whose own contributions remained impeccable in this series, jumped in joy and so did the rest of the South African team. The scenes in and around the dressing room spoke volumes of what this team had just achieved.
The Indian shoulders dropped. They won a toss that in hindsight was better lost, went into the game a batsman short, were plain unlucky on occasions and the pitch – unfortunately for them – began easing out just when they were praying it didn’t.
Such was the state of play through the first and second session that even inside edges didn’t work, overthrows added insult to the injury, a sitter got dropped and Kohli’s men didn’t get an opportunity to verbally distract the opposition either. Petersen, Bavuma and van der Dussen had put their heads down and got to work.
The very reasons India lost in Johannesburg came back to haunt them in Cape Town – lack of enough runs on the board. In the second innings of the third Test though, the continuing poor form with the bat just worsened. Outside of Rishabh Pant’s hundred and the extras given away by South Africa, the rest of the Indian batting order contributed a mere 70 runs. That is precisely where India lost this Test.
A question that’ll be asked for long moving ahead is if India’s pace attack had lacked bite in the second and third Test. It did not lack the bite as much as it lacked precision over a sustained period of time. It is perhaps the only difference that remained between how South Africa bowled, vis-à-vis their opponents. “The right areas,” as bowling coach Paras Mhambrey had underlined after the third day’s play, were missed and Kohli admitted after the Test