Intimidated by pace and scarred by extra bounce, an under-prepared India suffered an embarrassing innings and 32 run loss to a far superior South Africa in the opening Test which ended inside three days at SuperSport Park, Centurion. Having scored 245 in the first innings, the Indian batters managed only 131 in 34.1 overs in the second innings after South Africa managed a handsome 408 in its first essay. South Africa thus took an unassailable 1-0 lead in the two-match series and India’s dreams of winning a Test series in Rainbow Nation for the first time in 31 years lay in tatters.

The crushing loss saw India slip to the fifth position from the top spot in the updated World Test Championship (2023-25) table. Meanwhile, South Africa jumped to the top spot.

India now have 44.44 percentage points while the Proteas have 100 percentage points after winning their first game of the 2023-25 cycle.

Here is the updated WTC table:

Only redemption for India now could be a 1-1 draw if they manage to square the series during the New Year’s Test in Cape Town.

Indian team put up a shoddy batting show, which signified its cluelessness and singular lack of preparedness for a tough assignment like this.

It has been a horrible last six to seven weeks for skipper Rohit Sharma, who lost World Cup final, was removed from Mumbai Indians captaincy two weeks back and now didn’t look like a leader that made him an instant favourite during the World Cup.

The team also looked a bit like its skipper, dishevelled and without any plan B for course correction.

As Bob Marley’s iconic “Don’t worry, Everything Gonna be Alright” blared from loudspeakers, the Indian team must be wondering how nothing went alright through entire course of the match.

The incomparable Kagiso Rabada (2/32 in 12 overs) along with left-arm seamers Nandre Burger (4/33 in 10) and Marco Jansen (3/36 in 7.1 overs) made the Indian batters hop, skip and jump as the capacity crowd enjoying their Christmas and New Year’s vacation lapped up every moment of action with great enthusiasm.

The result isn’t one bit surprising but the manner of abject surrender will certainly haunt Rohit Sharma for the longest time.

Since Adelaide Test match, which was also a ‘Boxing Day’ Test back in 2020-21 series where India were all-out for 36, never has an Indian team looked so ill-equipped to handle conditions that was diabolically opposite of what they get in sub-continent.

With India’s third and fourth pacers leaking runs galore, South Africa managed 408 in the first innings as Indians gave a lovely “farewell present” to Dean Elgar, who played an uncharacteristically attacking innings of 185 in his penultimate Test.

Even Marco Jansen (84 not out off 147 balls) made merry on a track where fast bowlers would have been licking their lips.

With 163 runs in arrears, there was little chance of survival on a track where the ball was flying around and also jagging a fair bit.

Once Elgar and Jansen batted India out of the match, least one expected was a decent fightback but save Virat Kohli (76), who showed why he is cut above the rest in terms of technique and temperament, others were found wanting.

He was the only one, who could partially conquer the bounce and got his body behind the line to cover the seam movement and also rode the bounce to get his 12 boundaries and a six.

The extra bounce found each and everyone wanting while skipper Rohit was done in by another picture perfect seam-up delivery by Rabada, which compelled the Indian skipper to close his bat face and see the delivery deviate just enough to peg back his off-stump.

Burger, who bowled a bit wide off the crease, consistently bowled back of length, either aiming the rib-cage or keeping at shoulder height outside the off-stump.

Yashasvi Jaiswal couldn’t sway out of the line, first innings centurion KL Rahul and Ravichandran Ashwin fished at deliveries that bounced extra, while Mohammed Siraj got a bumper that could have knocked his head off.

Ditto for Shardul Thakur, who looked terrified and scared trying to fend a Rabada bouncer, while Shreyas Iyer is certainly not a man for pacey and bouncy conditions.

Earlier veteran Elgar missed out on a well-deserved maiden double hundred but inflicted enough damage on India in company of young Jansen to bat the visitors out of the opening Test.

Elgar, whose previous highest Test score is 199, was inching towards his maiden double hundred before a faint tickle to a leg-side bouncer from Shardul Thakur brought an end to his innings.

But that didn’t deter the lanky Jansen, not exactly known for his batting prowess, from negotiating a deflated Indian attack that looked out of sorts and bereft of ideas.

The Elgar-Jansen pair added 111 runs for the sixth wicket.

The Indian bowlers were even more disappointing on the third morning with Shardul (1/101 in 19 overs) and Prasidh Krishna (1/93 in 20 overs) spraying all over the place, only to be mercilessly punished by the former Proteas skipper Elgar and Jansen.

The pair drove, pulled, cut at will and neither the old ball nor the semi-new ball could bring about any change in fortune for the visiting team bowlers.

Jasprit Bumrah (4/69 in 26.4 overs) and Mohammed Siraj (2/91 in 24 overs) once again were unlucky as they repeatedly beat the bat of Elgar and Jansen but didn’t have the rub of the green going their way.

Prasidh and Thakur were not only below-par but also missed both line and length.

Prasidh was inducted into the squad to hit the deck and generate extra pace off the surface, but he missed the trick by consistently bowling length balls. Even someone like Gerald Coetzee dispatched him into the stands.

Prasidh isn’t ready for Test cricket just like India didn’t look ready for the series.

(With PTI Inputs)

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