ICC World Cup

Prepared for spin, South Africa trumped by the pace of Shami and Umesh

In the lead up to the 3rd Test of the Freedom Series 2019, South Africa batsmen were spotted roughing up the practice pitches with their spikes in order to prepare themselves for facing up to the spinners. South Africa captain Faf du Plessis told ESPNcricinfo that his team wanted to be ready for the sharp turn which could be on offer in Ranchi.

“Yeah, for me it’s about over-preparing. I want to try and make it as tough as possible in the nets, so that when I come to the middle, and if it does spin, then at least I’ve tried and prepared for it as best as possible. For me, it’s just about trying to put myself in a position where I feel like I’m prepared,” du Plessis had told ESPNcricinfo 2 days before the start of the 3rd Test in Ranchi. Come Tuesday, none of that preparation mattered as the visitors capitulated to their 1st-ever whitewash against India. However, du Plessis couldn’t be faulted for expecting spin to play wrecker-in-chief.

The last time South Africa toured India, in 2015, they were routed 3-0 on pitches which were practically minefields for batsmen facing spin. That South Africa team even had the services of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla – both great players of spin in their own right. The series left a lot of mental scars on the minds of the South Africans, so much so that their opener Dean Elgar didn’t even want to use the 2015 tour as a reference when he was asked how did he prepare for the tour this time in comparison to 4 years ago. Elgar called the pitches of 2015 a ‘farce’ before adding that playing more spin in county cricket had helped him prepare for India.

India vs South Africa 3rd Test Day 4: Highlights | Report

“If you want to use the last series against India in India. Don’t think we should use those wickets because that was a farce. You need to defend well against spinners, because then you give yourself the best chance of attacking. County cricket with Surrey has helped a lot. Playing spin is something I have been conscious of, and you will face a lot of spin when coming to India,” Elgar had said after his 1st innings 100 in Visakhapatnam.

Nonetheless, Elgar and Co. were in for a surprise this time around. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and to a lesser extent Ishant Sharma made sure that South Africa could never get off their feet once they landed in Visakhapatnam. During the 2015 series, Indian fast bowlers only picked up a total of 8 wickets to fall across the 4 Tests. In 2019, Shami, Umesh and Ishant combined to pick 26 at an average of an astonishing 17.46! Ishant, who sat out the Ranchi Test picked up just 2 of these making Shami and Umesh the wrecker-in-chiefs which South Africa were totally not expecting. Umesh finished the series with 11 wickets an average of 12.18 but Shami wasn’t far behind picking up 13 wickets at 14.76 apiece. South Africa debutant Zubair Hamza confirmed the mindset of his team after the end of the day’s play on Monday.

“I would say, based on just the general thought of playing in India, you’d assume that it would be tougher to play against the spinners. In saying that, we knew, obviously first we’d have to get through the quick bowlers that they’ve got, who are extremely disciplined and professional about the way they go about doing their job, so I wouldn’t say we underprepared against the seamers. I would just say that maybe we should have prepared more mentally in terms of playing them in whatever conditions that we were faced with,” Hamza told reporters.

Hamza further revealed what how exactly the Indian pacers forced his team into errors while accepting the defeciencies of his side in facing up to them.

“I would say that with the new ball they just forced us to play at more balls. They bowled attacking lines, they didn’t allow us to leave the ball many times, and by asking us to play at the majority of balls, given the fact that they’ve got good skill as well, obviously we’re going to have to be on top of our game in defence to keep those good balls out, and we haven’t done that.”

With the defeat, Faf du Plessis has become the only South African captain to have lost consecutive Test series in India. But, what will hurt du Plessis and South Africa more, is the manner of defeat. They weren’t able to bowl out India even once in the whole series while themselves being forced to follow-on in both Pune and Ranchi. But perhaps what will still hurt more is that India beat them at their own game.

Since their readmission, South Africa have prided themselves on their fast bowling resources. And why shouldn’t they? In Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada now, they have had a rich tradition of some of the game’s greatest fast bowlers coming through the ranks and helping their team win all over the world. But being beaten by an Indian pace battery, that too in India will hurt a lot. Even more than the 3-0 drubbing from 2015. With their 11th loss in their last 20 Tests (4 wins), South Africa have a lot of questions on their hands. But perhaps the biggest (apologies for the overkill) problem with the 2019 3-0 sweep for South Africa will be that they won’t have any excuses this time.

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Article source: https://www.indiatoday.in/sports/cricket/story/india-vs-south-africa-ranchi-test-series-mohammed-shami-umesh-yadav-1611714-2019-10-22?utm_source=rss


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