Indian bowlers responded brilliantly to their captain’s call with another rounded effort as the hosts thumped a bruised and battered South Africa in the second Test to take a series-clinching 2-0 lead here on Sunday.
Bearing the wet weather forecast in mind for Sunday and Monday, captain Virat Kohli had no hesitation in asking South Africa to follow-on right at the start of the day despite his bowlers having sent down 105.4 overs in the first innings.
Having had a good night’s rest, the bowlers dished out another authoritative show as India bowled out South Africa for 189 around 30 minutes after tea in front of a raucous 18,000 crowd at the MCA Stadium. With the innings and 137-run win, India also completed a record 11th successive home series triumph, surpassing Australia (10) who had accomplished it twice.
Kohli had made the right decision to enforce the follow-on. Apart from the bad weather forecast, morning conditions are the best for bowling here in Pune with pacers getting genuine help from the surface and the new ball.
Once the sun beats down and flattens the pitch and the ball gets soft, it has become difficult to bowl with the same bite. Kohli chose to have a crack at the South Africans in a bid to make the most of the conditions, aware that his pacers, barring Mohammed Shami, hadn’t bowled too many overs in the first innings.
Seasoned Ishant Sharma (1/17) and Umesh Yadav (3/22) vindicated the skipper’s decision by getting India off to the perfect start in the morning. Ishant trapped Aiden Markram LBW in just the second ball of the morning while Umesh sent back Theunis de Bruyn in the sixth over, wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha pulling off a stunning catch down the leg side.
Spinners R Ashwin (2/45) and Ravindra Jadeja (3/52) then took over from the pacers. The duo, the best spin bowling combination in the world currently, strangulated Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar with brilliant lines and lengths. Ashwin kept probing with his teasing off-spinners and subtle variations — some balls spun sharply while some, pitching in the same spot, straightened or spun the other way — while Jadeja varied his pace intelligently and got a few to turn sharply.
Runs came at a trickle during that phase and the pressure was just getting on the nerves of Elgar and Du Plessis.
A wicket was around the corner. Ashwin deservedly got both the batsmen, dismissing Du Plessis with a beauty and then forcing Elgar into playing a rash shot moments before lunch. South Africa then slipped to 79/5 right after resumption, Quinton de Kock going for a wild slog and missing it completely to be bowled off Jadeja.
Temba Bavuma, who has been in poor form this series, forged a mini-comeback along with the dogged Senuran Muthusamy with a 46-run stand for the sixth wicket. Their intention was to frustrate the Indians in delaying the inevitable. The Indians, though, didn’t get flustered and stuck to their guns, bowling a relentless line.
Ashwin and Jadeja constantly kept tossing the ball up, asking the batsmen to come at them. Bavuma and Muthusamy resisted the bait for long but India knew applying pressure will lead to a wicket. An excellent catch from Ajinkya Rahane at first slip off Jadeja sent back Bavuma and immediately Muthusamy followed him to the dressing room.
First innings fighters Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj did a repeat act by forging a 56-run stand for the eighth wicket and pushed the contest past tea. India came all charged after refreshments and completed the formalities quickly, posting their biggest win over the Proteas. The target now will be a whitewash in Ranchi and they look primed to execute it against a beleaguered South Africa.