PUNE: A wicket-keeper is a wicket-taker too. Fielders are wicket-takers too. They are bowlers’ performance-enhancing substances. India, though not entirely flawless on the field, hit home this point in an emphatic fashion when they enforced the follow-on and dismissed South Africa for 189 inside 70 overs to win the second Test by an innings and 137 runs with a day to spare at Gahunje stadium here on Sunday.
The hosts have now taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. The third Test starts in Ranchi on Saturday. Virat Kohli‘s men have also boosted their points tally in the World Test championship after this result.
The Sunday crowd, in excess of 15,000, probably got their time and money’s worth. Those who had got tickets for just the fifth day, will get a refund. Except off-spinner R Ashwin and pacer Mohd Shami in patches, no Indian bowler looked that threatening on a pitch that was losing its zip and freshness with every passing over.
However, soft dismissals after being put under pressure and smart fielding were the patterns for the day. Wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha led from behind the wicket with two of the three dismissals inside the first 24 overs. First, he dived to his left like a goalkeeper to remove Thenunis De Bruyn. Pacer Umesh Yadav gave a flying kiss to the sky, thanking the heavens for giving him a wicket despite straying down the leg side. It was his luck and Saha’s pluck that did it.
Saha then swallowed Faf Du Plessis on the fourth attempt off Ashwin, lunging down till silly point. Though he fumbled in the first attempt, his juggling act was as precise as a magician. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma joined him in the fielding act. Rahane took a sharp, reflex catch at first slip to send back the settled Temba Bavuma (38) off Ravindra Jadeja. A ball before he had survived a leg-before appeal.
Shami bowled some darts creating a beautiful angle. He showed left-handed Senuran Muthusamy his place with a short probing missile. The prod landed in Rohit Sharma’s palms in the second slip. The batsman also took a good catch in the slips to dismiss Kagiso Rabada.
Standing close to the stumps and sometimes leaning on his knees at short gully, Rohit also took blows on his body. So did Saha, who again justified his selection ahead of Rishabh Pant.
But South Africa’s mainstay, Dean Elgar, took a chance like Pant and the visitors paid heavily for that. Du Plessis had got out 10 balls before and Bavuma was yet to open his account at 71-3 in the 24th over. Still, Elgar went for the expansive lofted drive off R Ashwin but mistimed it. Umesh Yadav positioned himself well for the skier, running from mid-off and caught the ball on the third attempt.
Jadeja got rid of Quinton De Kock when the wicket-keeper tried a hoick, but missed it and was castled. Though Jadeja (3) got more wickets than Ashwin (2) in this innings, the latter gave ample demonstration of his greatness with subtle variations and the ability to play on the batsman’s mind.
Not that the South African batsmen didn’t have their moments. Bavuma appeared to have settled down when he square drove Jadeja and lofted him over widish long-on for fours and Elgar was mixing things up nicely before the brain fade. Philander, who scored an unbeaten 44 in the first-innings, started with entertaining boundaries.
Earlier, Ishant Sharma gave India a breakthrough off the second ball of the day, trapping Aiden Markram in front for a pair. Though first-innings batting heroes Philander (37) and Maharaj (22) added 56 runs for the eighth wicket, India’s victory march was never in doubt once lunch was taken at 74-4 and tea at 172-7.