Captain Virat Kohli claims his side played like the best team in the world following Saturday’s 63-run win over South Africa in the third and final Test at the Wanderers.
“This is one of our sweetest wins,” he said. “This day will be remembered for a long time for us as a team.”
Kohli said India’s performance on a pitch designed to help South Africa’s fast bowlers showed they could win in any conditions.
“We already had the belief but now we have the result to back that as well.”
He said belief in their own ability was crucial.
“If we think about winning Test matches, yes, we will lose some but we will end up winning a lot as well.”
Kohli added Saturday’s win, achieved on the fourth afternoon after South Africa lost their last nine wickets for 53 runs, ranked as one of the finest he had been involved in as a player.
He compared it to a win under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy against England at Lord’s in 2014.
“Lord’s was very special because we were playing on a similar sort of pitch,” he said.
Asked whether he was concerned that South Africa were taking control during a second wicket stand of 119 between Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla, which took the hosts to within 117 runs of their victory target of 241, Kohli said: “I don’t think like people on the outside,” adding that he knew that if one wicket fell it could lead to a collapse on a difficult pitch.
The win entrenched India as the world’s number one Test team. If South Africa had completed a 3-0 series sweep they would have drawn level on points with Kohli’s men.
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 27, 2018
“South Africa played better than us in the first two games so they deserved to win (the series) but we deserved to win this game. But at many moments in the first two games we put them under pressure,” added Kohli.
“We are the number one team in the world and we certainly played like that today.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis admitted that India had been the better team at the Wanderers but hailed the series win.
“It’s fantastic to win the series against a really good team. Credit to India for playing some really good cricket in all three Tests.”
Du Plessis praised the effort of Elgar, who was struck on the helmet on Friday in an incident which led to the umpires and match referee deciding to call off play, leading to concerns that the match could become only the third Test ever to be abandoned.
Although conditions were difficult on Saturday there was none of the excessive bounce from a good length that there had been on Friday.
Elgar battled for almost six hours, facing 240 balls, to make 86 not out.
He became the first South African to carry his bat twice through a Test innings.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 27, 2018
“He’s our little bulldog,” said Du Plessis.
Elgar said it was one of his toughest innings.
“Personally it’s an achievement but it’s bittersweet because we want to win Test matches.”
Du Plessis said he was disappointed about the quality of the pitch and said there needed to be discussions between team management and groundsmen about preparing pitches of a good standard.
“We never asked for anything excessive,” he said. “Once again we are not getting it right.”
Elgar and Amla battled until shortly before tea but then Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah sparked a dramatic collapse.
The hosts were looking comfortable as Elgar and Amla compiled a partnership of 119, although it took four hours and 50.4 overs of hard work. It was only the third century partnership of the series.
Sharma and Bumrah claimed two wickets each to start the slide before Mohammed Shami ripped through the lower order, taking five for 28.
Amla fell with the total on 124 when he clipped Sharma firmly towards midwicket and Hardik Pandya dived to his right to hold a good catch.
Amla had faced 140 balls in making his second half-century of the match.
India will seek to avoid a series whitewash when they play South Africa in the third and final Test at the Wanderers Stadium, starting on Wednesday.
The Wanderers could live up to its reputation as a haven for fast bowlers, especially after South African captain Faf du Plessis expressed his disappointment with the slowness of the Centurion pitch where South Africa clinched the series last week.
Two days out from the match, there was a generous covering of green grass on a surface baking under a hot sun, with groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi saying in a weekend newspaper interview that he was planning on preparing a “green mamba” – which South Africans understand as a green pitch offering venomous assistance to seam bowlers.
India, though, will be buoyed by their record at the ground. They have yet to be beaten in Tests there, with a win and three draws going back to 1992/93.
On the one occasion where conditions were particularly bowler-friendly, in 2006/07, South Africa were beaten at their own game.
Firebrand seamer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth took five for 30, South Africa were bowled out for 84 in the first innings and India went on to win by 123 runs. It remains one of only two Indian wins against 10 defeats in 19 Tests in South Africa.
While bemoaning his team’s poor batting in the current series, Indian captain Virat Kohli has hailed his bowlers, who have claimed 20 wickets in both Tests so far. This, he believes, gives India the ammunition to be competitive.
Kohli himself has happy memories of the ground, having scored 119 and 96 in the drawn first Test in 2013/14 when South Africa, set to make a world record 458 to win, finished on 450 for seven, in a match which showed that batsmen can prosper at the Wanderers once the initial sting is drawn from the surface.
Cheteshwar Pujara made 153 in the second innings of the 2013/14 match and India will be seeking an improvement from their number three batsman, who has made only 49 runs in four innings, including being run out in both innings in Centurion.
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 21, 2018
Ajinkya Rahane, who did not play in the first two Tests, had a lengthy net at the weekend and could be recalled on the strength of a strong record in overseas Tests.
Dinesh Karthik was flown in as a replacement for injured wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and could play at the expense of Parthiv Patel, who had a poor game with the gloves in Centurion.
With their formidable fast bowling attack, coupled with more resolute batting and better fielding in the first two Tests, South Africa will again start favourites although they will be wary of a potential Indian backlash.
Rain could interfere with play on as many as four days.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi.
India (from): Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wkt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK), Ian Gould (ENG)
TV umpire: Michael Gough (ENG)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)
Provided by AFP Sport
All great players have that one knock or spell that truly defines them. An effort that resonates across generations.
Say Sharjah ‘Desert Storm’ 1998 and you know we are talking about Sachin Tendulkar’s epic 143 against Australia. Mike Gatting, first ball and 1993 Ashes mean only one thing – Shane Warne’s ball of the century. Brian Lara has a 400 to his name but no cricket fan can forget the unbeaten 153 he made against an Australian attack comprising of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne in the Barbados Test of 1999 to seal a one-wicket win chasing 308.
The 1999 Eden Gardens Test between India and Pakistan will forever be remembered as the match where Shoaib Akhtar embedded himself in the psyche of the cricketing world, shattering the stumps of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar off successive toe crushers bowled with the wrath of a hurricane. Dravid himself will forever be remembered for his 233 against the Aussies in the 2003 Adelaide Test that set up one of the most remarkable Test wins for India.
Virat Kohli has not yet reached that level, at least not in Test cricket. While his incredible conversion rate in Tests – 21 centuries and 15 fifties – puts him in a league of his own, his tally of 5,454 is still some way away from the 10,000-run mark. But there is no doubt Kohli will finish his career as an all-time great. And when he does enter that club, he will most probably look back at the 153 against the Proteas at Centurion as the moment that defined him as a batsman and captain.
Quite simply, one of the best innings I have seen from Kohli.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 15, 2018
For Kohli, 2018 is the year that will show whether India truly deserve their No1 status in Tests. Having lost the first match in Cape Town, the Indian team attracted a lot of derision with their poor record outside Asia put back in the spotlight. Centurion was make or break for Kohli and India.
Let’s get one thing clear. It wasn’t the most challenging pitch. In fact, conditions were more Chennai than Centurion with the wicket offering sharp turn and the ball beginning to keep low by the third day. But given the match situation, it is arguably his most important.
Kohli’s 141 against Australia in the 2013 Adelaide Test at the beginning of his captaincy stint was arguably the better knock because it came in the fourth innings as the Indians made a valiant effort while chasing 364 and fell 48 short. That knock epitomised the kind of cricket Kohli expects the Indians to play – aggressive and always going for victory.
Kohli has looked head and shoulders above the rest in this series....and that includes batsmen from both sides. Hardly a shot in the air...lots of singles. High strike-rate. Modern Master. #RunMachine #SAvIND— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) January 15, 2018
But Centurion had a lot more riding on it. The middle session of the third day was where the series could have gone to South Africa or remained up for grabs. India started the day at 183-5 and well behind South Africa’s 335. After Hardik Pandya ran himself out with the total on 209, it was all down to Kohli to keep India in the race.
Batting with the tail needs finesse and Kohli didn’t lose his shape or composure with the match, series and possibly the rest of the season that includes tours to England and Australia on the line.
The way he cajoled Ishant Sharma to fight it out for 20 balls while taking the total past 300 after the Proteas had taken the second new ball and dismissed Ravi Ashwin and Mohammed Shami was a fine example of a master at work. With the stump mic on full volume, fans who can understand Hindi were treated to a glimpse into the mind of a champion batsman asking his lower order team-mate whether he is comfortable facing the quicks and farming the strike accordingly.
Without Kohli, India would have been out of the Test and the series. But the Delhi batsman has ensured India live to fight another day by scoring half of the team’s total. If India do end up having a successful 2018, we will know where it all began.