India lost the first Test to South Africa by an innings and 32 runs.© AFP

After being bowled out for just 131 runs, India suffered a massive defeat by innings and 32 runs against South Africa on Day 3 of the first Test at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Thursday. The result marked India’s worst defeat in a Test match on South African soil, surpassing their previous low in December 2010 when they faced an innings and 25-run loss at the same venue. Trailing by 163 runs, India were bowled out for 131 in their second innings on Day Three to go one down in the first of the two-match Test series. Only Virat Kohli managed a score of 76, as nine Indian batters failed to reach double figures. Meanwhile, Shubman Gill fought briefly before departing for 26.

The seeds of India’s defeat were sown on the first day itself. Put into bat, the visitors struggled to adapt and seemed ill-prepared to counter the challenging deliveries from the Proteas bowling attack. South African pacers Kagiso Rabada and Nandre Burger exploited the conditions well and made the ball swing and move to trouble the Indian batters on a demanding pitch.

India’s batting line-up was bundled out for 245 courtesy of KL Rahul’s resilient 137-ball 101 knock. Although Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer weathered the early storm, their contributions fell short. The team’s inability to handle swing and bounce in the first innings was a primary factor leading to their embarrassing defeat.

Blame does not lie solely with the batters; the Indian bowling attack failed to capitalise on the conditions, allowing the hosts to seize momentum on the second day. While Mohammed Siraj secured an early breakthrough by dismissing Aiden Markram, a tactical error from captain Rohit Sharma in deploying Prasidh Krishna and Shardul Thakur proved costly. The duo were unable to make the most of the bouncy pitch as the South African batters played them with ease. If Rohit Sharma had entrusted the ball to his premier pacers, Jasprit Bumrah (4/69) and Mohammed Siraj (2/91), the narrative could have taken a different turn. Later, Bumrah was brought into the attack and he sent Tony de Zorzi and Keegan Petersen back to the pavilion in the space of two overs. However, the damage was already done.

Eventually, South Africa reached 408 in their first innings, with Dean Elgar’s 185 and David Bedingham’s 56 steering them to a commanding position.

As Team India prepares for the second Test at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town from January 3 to 7, lessons from the strategic lapses and the batting vulnerability must be addressed to mount a comeback in the series.

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