In the shortest Test ever, India had to do everything right, and barring an 11-ball break on day one, one could argue they did just that to level the series 1-1 and notch their first ever win at the Cape. town.
The match lasted just 642 runs – partly due to the dramatic action extracted from the wicket and partly due to the technique of modern batsmen – and there will be questions asked about the field but in such conditions, every error has a possibility that is magnified many times over. Just because you're ahead doesn't mean it stays that way.
Which is why, as the second day of the second Test began in Cape Town, India were on high alert. South Africa were 36 runs behind with six wickets in the second innings but given the collapses they witnessed on day one, it was important to finish their innings as quickly as possible.
Sharma may have been worried but he really didn't have to as Jasprit Bumrah was there to allay his skipper's fears with a brilliant spell of bowling.
After just six balls in the morning session, he served David Bedingham (11). Soon afterwards, Kyle Vereen (9) went for an ill-advised pull shot to give Bumrah his second wicket of the morning. The Indian player added to the misery of the hosts by bringing back Marco Janssen (11).
Suddenly, even though Aiden Markram looked like he was batting on a different pitch, South Africa's innings was in danger of ending too quickly. But perhaps this is where India went wrong. While Bumrah was doing his thing, Rohit used Mukesh Kumar at the other end while the first innings star, Mohammed Siraj, was fresh and ready to go.
It gave Markram some breathing room and the opener took full advantage of that to play an innings for the ages. He didn't appear to be in a rush, which was a stark comparison to many other hitters in the game. While everyone was hitting and missing, his shot selection was impeccable.
He was dropped by KL Rahul on 73, but made the most of it to end up with 106 in South Africa's total of 176. His 106 represents 60.22 percent of the total in the second innings and is a record for South Africa.
If more of his teammates had taken a leaf out of his book, South Africa might have been able to set a difficult goal. But they were bowled out for 176 runs and that meant India had just 79 runs to go into the second innings.
A brilliant display by Siraj set the game up for India on day one and Bumrah finished things off in style with 6/61 in the second over. The pacers, as they have so often done, came out well for India once again. Bumrah spotted his length and was quick to change it when the lower order came into the picture. After bowling difficult lengths initially, he later started playing with them.
“This ground will hold a special place in my heart,” Bumrah said after the match. “Love memories of my first match, happy that things went well for me. The journey started in 2018 and we wanted to make an impact in all conditions. In India, spinners do a lot of work. The team is going through a transition now but the message is the same. It is difficult “Continuing to achieve that; we were happy that we were able to do that in this game. I didn't expect this to happen (the shortest Test) but it's a great series.”
A few early wickets could have put the cat among the pigeons but Yashasvi Jaiswal smashed a quick 28 off 23 balls to take the tension out of the proceedings. The 44-round opening stand put the outcome beyond doubt.
The conditions were not easy for batting but India will exit the series knowing that another chance to win a Test series in South Africa has come and gone. There will be talk about whether the preparation for the tour could have been better and whether that would give them a better chance given there are a lot of young players in the team.
“When you come to this part of the world,” Sharma said after the win. “It is always difficult but we are proud of our performance outside India. South Africa always challenges us and for us to come out here and win, we can be proud of this performance.
It seems almost a shame that the series was only two Tests. There would be no chance of finding a clear victor and given how the first two Tests went, fans were looking forward to the two sides facing off again. But for the first time since the 2010/11 season, India have drawn a series in the rainbow nation. It's not a winning streak, but the win in Cape Town is special.
“It will be one of our best wins in Test matches,” Sharma said after India's seven-wicket win. “After not winning here in Cape Town [before]Obviously this puts us ahead with all the wins we've had. It is very difficult to compare the Test matches you play because each Test has its own importance and significance. The Test we won at The Gabba too. The last Test Australia lost in Brisbane was in 1988, I think… It's kind of become their fortress. They never lose a test there.
“And the way we won that Test was very important. From where we came, we were 1-0 down, we won in Melbourne and then we drew the Test match in Sydney and then we won in Brisbane. So, you can't really arrange the Tests,” Sharma added. But this should be at the top because we didn't win here. This shows how important this place is for us to come here and perform. I give a lot of credit to our team for putting up a performance like that and winning the game.”
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