and SA once more find themselves in a hole as they struggle against dominant Sharma Bent on ‘revenge”
Rohit Sharma has waited nearly six years to exact vengeance on South Africa in a Test series. After scoring 529 runs in four innings, the 2019 series in India, can go by the moniker ‘Rohit’s Revenge’.
Back in Durban, in the second and final Test of a ludicrously shortened series between the Proteas and India in 2013, Sharma got into some verbal jousting with Dale Steyn in the second innings of that match. It was stupid.
Sharma really shouldn’t have had anything to say having been dismissed first ball by Steyn in the first innings. But joust with the mouth Sharma did. “You’ve done nothing in your career,” Steyn told Sharma. “Let’s see what you do in India,” replied Sharma.
Trouble for Sharma is Steyn had nearly taken more wickets in India, than Sharma had Test runs at the time. So distracted was the Indian batsman by the verbal toing-and-froing that Steyn didn’t even have to get him out. Vernon Philander did.
Coming into this series, Sharma averaged 12.41 against South Africa in 12 Test innings. When he came to South Africa last year he was wasting a spot in the Indian middle order.
The selectors dropped him for the last Test in Johannesburg, which India courageously won.
He’d been in and out of the Indian Test side since. In this series, the selectors gave him a chance at the top of the order.
It’s a very different Sharma that this group of South Africans have encountered.
For those more familiar with his exploits against the white ball, his patience against the new red ball has been surprising, but also exemplary.
And yes, it’s worth mentioning that on the two pitches that have lacked pace in this series he has thrived, while on the one that had a bit of zip in Pune, Kagiso Rabada, successfully located the outside edge of his bat.
But as Sharma told Steyn, ‘let’s see what you do in India’. Steyn ain’t in India but the South Africans looking to fill in the gap he left, have been unable to upset Sharma’s equilibrium. He has hit 62 fours and 19 sixes in the series.
While India lost three top order wickets before they’d reached 50 on Saturday, Sharma was calm, his defence tight, like any good opener’s should be. Once the Proteas went to their spinners Sharma unleashed his full repertoire of shots.
He has taken a particular liking to Dane Piedt and even when the off-spinner has produced some of his best balls, Sharma has proven to be his master.
“He played well,” debutant left-arm spinner George Linde said in a most understated fashion.
Sharma innings of 212 – off only 255 balls – has again put India in a position from which they shouldn’t lose. He and Ajinkya Rahane’s 267-run fourth wicket partnership established India’s control of the Test. Rahane made an elegant 115.
South Africa’s batsmen were then not helped by the umpire’s poor judgement in allowing play to resume after tea yesterday, in heavily overcast conditions with the lights at the stadium overwhelmingly dominant.
The Proteas openers; Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock, both fell to deliveries for which their misjudgement could be blamed on the bad light.
It’s left South Africa in a hole once more in this series.