India’s 3-0 home victory over South Africa is another indication of the growing stature of an improving team that can now go on and win Tests anywhere in the world, according to captain Virat Kohli.
Kohli’s side beat South Africa inside three days on turning wickets in Mohali and Nagpur before thumping the world’s top-ranked team by 337 runs at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Monday (7).
“Test cricket has always been one format in which we have been wanting to do well,” he said after India climbed to number two in the world.
“I think it all began in Australia for us, the way we played there. We showed a lot of character even in our (2-0) defeat,” said Kohli who took over as captain Down Under this year following MS Dhoni’s retirement.
“It was never one-sided defeats. It was always being at the heel of the opposition knowing we could catch them at any stage.
“That gave us a lot of belief as a Test teatestm, that we can be a champion team, we can play well around the world and as a unit.”
Since Kohli’s full-time appointment as captain, India have registered their first Test series win in 23 years in Sri Lanka before handing South Africa their first away series defeat in nine years.
“We have carried forward that confidence from Australia and we took it to Sri Lanka. We set out a few plans, a few rules and a few things the team need to do in order to do well,” said Kohli.
The 27-year-old has resented talk about the turning pitches used for the series against South Africa, even after the Nagpur track, where 40 wickets tumbled in three days, was rated as ‘poor’ by the match referee.
After the final Test lasted all five days, Kohli again criticised the media. “Hopefully you guys got the answer today. We always believed we can win anywhere in the world,” he said.
Resuming on 72-2, South Africa employed the same ultra-defensive approach that marked their batting last Sunday (6), hoping to eke out a pride-salvaging draw than chase an improbable 481-run victory target.
Amla (23) led their dour reply with his 244-ball resistance and AB de Villiers (43) battled for about six hours, much of it with a swollen thumb, before the tourists folded for 143 in 143.1 overs.
Their single-minded blocking also allowed India’s left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja to send down 17 consecutive maiden overs.
Ravichandran Ashwin claimed 5-61 to finish with 31 wickets which also earned the off-spinner the man-of-the-series award.
“All wins are pretty special but this one because we had to work harder for this,” Kohli added. “We were surprised with the way they were defending the ball, but the bowlers didn’t go off their plans.
“It tested our patience but I think it’s more special to get wickets in that situation.”
The Indian captain employed as many as eight bowlers, including himself, to overcome the Proteas’ resistance and populated the crease with up to six close-in fielders for his spinners.
Jadeja earned the breakthrough in the fifth over after the hosts had taken the new ball, spinning one past Amla’s tentative bat to hit the top of the off-stump before embarking on a celebratory run.
Amla departed after nearly five hours, scoring 25 painstaking runs in what was the slowest ever Test inning of 200 or more balls. The 27 runs he added with de Villiers in 253 balls was also the slowest Test partnership of 175 balls or more.
New man in Faf du Plessis displayed the same obduracy with the bat and took 53 balls – seven more than skipper Amla – to get off the mark.
Jadeja ended du Plessis’ (10) two-hour stay after lunch but it was once again Ashwin, who virtually sealed the match in India’s favour by dismissing de Villiers soon after tea.
It was one of the slowest innings by de Villiers, who holds the record for the fastest 50, 100 and 150 in one-day cricket, made more remarkable by the fact that he had been hit on the thumb by an Umesh Yadav delivery.
“It was a tough series for our batters. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get that much runs most of the times,” Amla said after South Africa’s first away Test series defeat in nine years.
Ajinkya Rahane was adjudged man-of-the-match for his twin centuries in the final Test of a series in which no other batsman managed to get to three-figures.