Cape Town, Jan 14: A spirited performance from a relatively inexperienced band of players helped South Africa produce the biggest upset of the year as they defeated a star-studded Indian team with a clinical seven-wicket victory in the third Test to clinch a memorable 2-1 series triumph here on Friday (January 14).
The Proteas going through one of their toughest transition phases embarrassed the mighty Indians in two games on the trot, which in itself is a no mean feat given the history of Indians coming back strongly after losing a game.
The target of 212 wasn't a tough ask and starting the day at 101 for two, young pretender Keegan Petersen (82, 113 balls) along with Rassie van der Dussen (41 not out) added 54 runs for the third wicket to seal the match before Temba Bavuma (32 not out) helped in putting the final touches.
Petersen walked away with both the player of the match as well as the player of the series honours. It was especially sweet for the hosts who lost premier pacer Anrich Nortje to injury before the series and were then hit by Quinton de Kock's sudden mid-series retirement.
"It's a great spectacle of Tests for everyone to watch; hard-fought series. Great first game but SA did amazingly well. In both Tests they won, they were clinical with the ball in crunch moments," India skipper Virat Kohli admitted after the game.
With this series defeat, India's record of never having won a Test series in the Rainbow Nation for three decades remained intact. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the only India captain to have managed a drawn series back in 2010.
It was one of the strongest Indian teams on paper against one of the weakest South African teams on paper. However, the operative word here was "on paper" as Elgar's unheralded bunch showed a lot of character in punching above their weight and also getting heavily rewarded for their relentless efforts.
"The way our bowling unit delivered throughout the series is brilliant. I threw down the challenge after the first game and the guys responded brilliantly," said an elated Elgar.
India's batters were far too dependant on bowlers to bail them out for the past few years but this series showed that this attack is human too even though they put their best foot forward, which wasn't complemented at all by the willow wielders.
The only hope for India was the first spell from Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami in sultry conditions with the semi-new ball and they did their bit with all sincerity. Petersen was beaten time and again but, in between, scored his runs to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Their strategy was to see off the first spell and capitalise when Umesh Yadav, who is known to bowl boundary balls, was brought into the attack. Bumrah, in his second spell, did get one to straighten but Cheteshwar Pujara, enduring a poor series with the bat, dropped a crucial regulation slip catch with the batter on 59.
The scores of 202, 223 and 198 are the reason India lost and the second innings effort at both Wanderers and Newlands showed that Indian bowlers could only do as much. The heavy-duty tirade against the host broadcasters Supersport with their customised diatribe did not look good in the face of dismal performance.
Kohli is the only captain who has now lost two-Test series in South Africa. But a lot has got to do with how India have persisted with two completely out of sorts middle-order players.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are no longer bringing any value to the team and they are unlikely to retain their places in the time to come. Yes, the transition phase ought to start and it better be soon.
Updated WTC 2021-23 Points Table After 3rd Test Between India And South Africa:
With this series defeat, Team India have also slipped to the fifth spot in the World Test Championship table. Before the start of the series, Kohli and Co. were at the fourth spot in the WTC 2021-23 table and now South Africa have replaced them.
Sri Lanka - 24 Points - 2 Wins - 0 Loss - 0 draw - 1 series
Australia - 40 Points - 3 wins - 0 loss - 1 draw - 1* series
Pakistan - 36 Points - 3 wins - 1 loss - 0 draw - 2 series
South Africa - 24 points - 2 wins - 1 loss - 0 draw - 1 series
India - 53 points - 4 wins - 3 losses - 2 draws - 3 series
New Zealand - 16 points - 1 win - 2 losses - 1 draw - 2 series
Bangladesh - 12 points - 1 win - 3 losses - 0 draw - 2 series
West Indies - 12 points - 1 win - 3 losses - 0 draw - 2 series
England - 10 points - 1 win - 5 losses - 2 draw - 2* series
"*" ongoing series
(With PTI inputs)