India stormed to a 203-run victory over South Africa in the first Test thanks to nine wickets between Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja in the second innings.
Set a target of 395, the away side were bundled out for 191 on the final day of the first Test on Sunday to give India a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Shami returned figures of 5-35 while Jadeja took four wickets.
Dane Piedt (56) and debutant Senuran Muthusamy (49 not out) frustrated the Indians with a defiant stand of 91 runs for the ninth wicket after the visitors had slipped to 70/8.
Shami however got the job done, removing Piedt before claiming the final wicket of Kagiso Rabada.
India beat South Africa by 203 runs❕— Yashas (@imyashas4) October 6, 2019
☑️ Mayank Agarwal bought up his maiden Test ton which he converted into double.
☑️ Rohit scored century in both the Innings.
☑️ Ashwin's Super spell.
☑️Shami's 5fer in the 4th Innings.#INDvsSA pic.twitter.com/0AjT0ERYXp
In another match, Rohit Sharma’s back-to-back tons would’ve made his performance the undisputed match-winning one. And it will still be largely credited for the victory, but the same argument could be made for Mayank Agarwal’s double century in the first innings or Ashwin’s figures of 8/190.
That’s just the sort of performance it was from India with a number of players excelling. A 317-run opening stand between Rohit and Agarwal on the first day put India in the driving seat. Any hope of victory might have evaporated though had it not been for Ashwin’s wickets when South Africa took to the crease.
Rohit then pressed home the advantage in the second innings with another ton, breaking records along the way in his first match as a Test opener. Meanwhile Jadeja was a consistent performer with bat and ball – he scored 70 runs in 78 balls during the match and took six wickets.
The timing of those wickets, particularly in the second innings were crucial in chasing victory. He got the ball rolling by dismissing Dean Elgar at the end of day four before three quick wickets – two off successive deliveries – put the visitors on the ropes.
Of course, Shami’s five-for was then the story of the final day, even picking up the winning wicket.
Prior to this Test, Ashwin hadn’t featured for India in 10 months. His selection has been limited to red ball cricket since July 2017 given the plethora of spin bowling options available to the team in the likes of Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvender Chahal.
He even failed to feature in the recent tour of West Indies with India opting for only one spinner in Jadeja.
After picking up his 27th five-wicket haul during the first innings at Vizag, it seems preposterous that such an accomplished player remains so limited. It’s even more ludicrous that he is now on par with an all-time great in Muttiah Muralitharan as the fastest to reach 350 Test wickets.
Like the Sri Lankan legend, Ashwin has taken 66 matches to reach the milestone. His form on home soil, where turning wickets are abundant, means his place for the next two Tests against South Africa and then the series with Bangladesh should be secure. But what can he accomplish in that time to force selectors to pick him beyond that?
FOR PIEDT’S SAKE
Piedt and Muthuswamy have brought up South Africa's highest ninth-wicket partnership against India, giving the visitors something to cheer about.— ICC (@ICC) October 6, 2019
They are now 142/8, the current pair contributing 72 to that!
Follow #INDvSA LIVE 👇 https://t.co/dCGJ4Pcug5 pic.twitter.com/mYbllTsAJi
The South African batsmen must take a long hard look at themselves. After doing superbly in the first innings and racking up 431, a tame second effort at the crease was as surprising as it was inexcusable.
India deserve credit for their bowling on the final day and Shami will naturally take the plaudits. The seamer had no business taking a five-wicket haul on this track but with the pitch breaking up, he used the uneven bounce to his advantage and took out some of the big-hitters.
That said, the manner of some dismissals were poor on a wicket that had plenty of runs in it. Faf du Plessis was the big one. Granted the ball nipped back remarkably but he didn’t pick up the line well and watched as his off stump was dislodged. Temba Bavuma was unnecessarily on the back foot for his dismissal and had no way to improvise when the ball kept low.
Quinton de Kock, after top-scoring with 111 in the first innings, also had his stumps knocked over as he allowed a huge gap between bat and pad.
After being reduced to 70/8, Piedt and Muthusamy put the top order to shame with their 91-run stand for the ninth wicket. Yes, the new ball was long gone but they showed how comfortable things could get if only you spent a little time out in the middle.
Piedt’s innings in particular was especially defiant as he went after the bowling and pushed fielders back before Muthusamy then followed suit.
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