From Gabba to Lord’s to Centurion, team India ended the year 2021 on a high by breaching yet another fortress. After conquering Brisbane in their historic tour of Australia, followed by the victories in London in the England Test series later this year, India got their tour of South Africa off to a terrific start with a victory in Centurion — venue where the hosts had lost only twice since their readmission in 1991.
Arguably, it was already the greatest year in Test cricket for India.
And so it was rather fitting that Virat Kohli and Co ended the year by breaching another fortress, this time at the venue that is considered the home of South African cricket. Centurion witnessed an Indian Test win for the first time in history on Thursday.
In the process, team India recorded their third consecutive win in a Boxing Day Test. India have played the Boxing Day Test two other times in the last three years, both of them at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.
While they won the 2018 Test by 137 runs, they won the 2020 Test by eight wickets. On Thursday, Ravichandran Ashwin took the last two South African wickets off consecutive deliveries to seal a 113-run win for India.
Team India: Historic feat
This is the first time that India have won a Test match in Centurion and just the third time that a visiting team have managed to beat South Africa in a Test match at the SuperSport Park. It also marks the 37th time since 2000 that a team have perished while chasing a target of over 250 in Test cricket against India. In fact, since the turn of the century, India have never lost a Test match after setting a target of over 250 for the opposition to chase in the fourth innings.
As India secured the victory, Virat Kohli’s side reached a remarkable feat in Test cricket. The Indian team – only for the second time in its history – won four overseas Tests in a calendar year. Incidentally, it was under Kohli’s captaincy when India achieved the feat for the first time as well.
India won Tests in Brisbane, Lord’s, Oval, and Centurion this year, equaling the feat in 2018 when India began their away win campaign in Johannesburg, Nottingham, Adelaide, and Melbourne.
Kohli returned as captain when India defeated England in two Tests and gained a 2-1 lead in the five-match series (the fifth Test will be played in Manchester in July 2022).
Team India: Pacers shine
Indian cricket owes a huge debt of gratitude to former bowling coach Bharat Arun, ex-head coach Ravi Shastri as well as current Test skipper Kohli for shaping the fast-bowling quartet that has gone on to play an integral role in India’s success in overseas Test campaigns in the last three years.
The trio of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj hunted like a pack on the spicy Centurion pitch that threw uneven bounce into the mix and made life for batters even more difficult beyond the opening day. All three were relentless in the lines and the lengths bowled to the Proteas, who folded for less than 200 on both occasions as a result.
While the openers and the bowling unit performed admirably in the Centurion victory, the same unfortunately cannot be said of India’s Nos 3, 4 and 5.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane need to step up if the team has to put on big score on a consistent basis.
A total of 137 runs across two innings from the senior trio certainly does put a lot of pressure on the rest of the batting unit as well as the bowlers.