India’s dream of winning a Test series in South Africa for the first time was ended inside three days as they crashed to an innings and 32 runs defeat at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Thursday.
With the series consisting of only two matches they can at best earn a share of the honours if they win the second Test starting in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“We’ll regroup and come back,” said Indian captain Rohit Sharma after the game.
“It’s important to regroup as quickly as we can, tough from a loss like these but as sportsmen you go through these times. Got to pick ourselves up.”
India had no answer to South Africa’s pace attack as they crashed to 131 all out in their second innings, after conceding a 163-run first innings lead.
A day which started with the match evenly poised turned into a rout for the tourists.
Dean Elgar (185) and Marco Jansen (84 not out) transformed a slender 11-run lead for South Africa at the start of play into a strong position.
They shared a 111-run sixth wicket partnership as South Africa took an overnight 256 for five to 408 all out despite the absent of injured captain Temba Bavuma.
Virat Kohli hit an aggressive 76 for India before he was last man out but the rest of the batting collapsed against South Africa’s fast bowlers on a lively pitch.
The second innings lasted just 34.1 overs. Kohli hit 12 fours and a six in an 82-ball innings. Shubman Gill made 26 but no other batsman scored more than six.
“Having been sent in we got decent runs on the board,” said Sharma.
“But we failed to exploit the conditions with the ball and our batting was poor in the second innings.”
Kagiso Rabada set the tone for South Africa, bowling Sharma for a duck with a superb delivery which deviated off the pitch to hit the off stump.
Rabada, who took five for 59 in the first innings, took two for 32 and finished the match with an outstanding diving catch at long-on to dismiss Kohli off Jansen, who took three for 36.
Left-arm fast bowler Nandre Burger completed an impressive debut Test by taking four for 33, giving him match figures of seven for 83.
Three catches went down in the slip cordon but none proved expensive.
Elgar was named man of the match in his final Test on his home ground. He has announced he will retire from international cricket after the second Test.
“It was pretty special for me,” he said.
“It (the pitch) was pretty juicy. You’ve got to keep it nice and simple batting in Tests. Focus on the ball, play straight and play late.”
It was a policy which India were unable to follow, although Sharma paid tribute to KL Rahul for his “brilliant” century in the first innings.
South Africa captain Bavuma took no further part in the match after injuring his left hamstring on the first morning.
Coach Shukri Conrad confirmed later that Bavuma would not play in the second Test.
Former captain Elgar, who led the team on the field after Bavuma’s injury, will captain the team in Cape Town.
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