Ranchi: Twelve balls. It’s all India needed to pick up the final two South African wickets and record a 3-0 victory – their first-ever series sweep over South Africa
South Africa folded for 133, which meant that they still ended up 202 runs short of India’s first-innings total, after having batted twice. The final margin was also India’s largest win in Tests over South Africa.
And it was Shahbaz Nadeem, the debutant left-arm spinner, who put the finishing touches on yet another comprehensive Indian win. With the fifth ball of his first over on day four, Nadeem shortened his length to compensate for Theunis de Bruyn, substituting as a concussion replacement for Dean Elgar, who was struck on the helmet on day three by Umesh Yadav, stepping down the track. The batsman was forced to change course late and attempted a cut, but with the ball keeping low and skidding through, all he could manage was an under-edge that was snaffled by Wriddhiman Saha.
Then, off the final ball, in truly peculiar circumstances, Nadeem had the last man Lungi Ngidi caught and bowled after the ball rebounded off the non-striker Anrich Nortje. With Nadeem having offered up generous flight, Ngidi cleared his front leg and drilled the ball hard, but straight into the shoulder of the non-striker, whereafter the ball lobbed up gently towards Nadeem, who snapped it up to trigger celebrations in the Indian camp.
The twin strikes meant Nadeem ended his debut Test with four wickets to give yet another reason to cheer for India. Umesh completed his dream return to Test whites with five wickets in the game to follow up from the six he snared in his comeback Test in Pune, while his new-ball partner Mohammed Shami also finished with five scalps to his name.
Though he picked up just one wicket in this Test, R Ashwin was India’s highest wicket-taker for the series, with 15 scalps in the three Tests. Ravindra Jadeja and Shami picked up 13 wickets each, while Umesh wound up with 11 despite having played one Test less than his team-mates.
On the batting front, Rohit Sharma was head and shoulders above the rest in his maiden series as a Test match opener, with a gulf of nearly 200 runs between him (529 runs) and next best Mayank Agarwal (340 runs). As many as three of India’s batsmen struck double-centuries, with Agarwal making one in the first Test in Visakhapatnam, Kohli in the second Test in Pune, and Rohit in the third in Ranchi. By contrast, only two South African batsmen – Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock – who both did so in South Africa’s first innings in Visakhapatnam, struck centuries in the series.