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Cricket news - Seamers outshine spinners in India's dominant home show
A strong South African contingent, who hadn't lost a Test series away from home in the last nine years, arrived in the Indian shores in late 2015. A rookie captain Virat Kohli, captaining for the first time at at home, proceeded to end that record sequence by dishing out dustbowls as India clinched the series 3-0. Four years down the line, under a more matured Kohli, India have emulated the series scoreline on pitches that have been anything but rank turners.
The odds were heavily stacked against a young and inexperienced South Africa because of their awful recent record against spin in the sub-continent and their best bet to push India close was their seam attack led by Kagiso Rabada. At the end of three Tests, India out-batted and out-bowled South Africa with India's speedsters hogging the limelight at the expense of their South African counterparts as well as their own, famous spin twins.
South Africa's top order blues
It took 82 overs for South Africa to take the first Indian wicket in this series as Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal piled up a 317-run opening stand in Vizag. The template followed throughout the series - India's top order blunting the new ball while South Africa's had no answer to India's bowlers. In the four innings India batted in the series, they weren't bowled out even once as they lost just 25 wickets in the entire series to South Africa's 60.
Top-order (1-7) batting stats
India's top seven averaged 81.50 in the series with seven hundreds out of 12 50-plus scores. South Africa's top seven, in comparison, averaged a paltry 23.00. This happens to be second-best average for India's top seven in a series of three or more Tests after 85.91 they averaged against Sri Lanka at home in 2009/10. On the other hand, this is the highest average for a top seven against South Africa in a series. India's batting domination was so complete that four of India's five highest individual scores against South Africa came in this series.
The difference in how the two teams fared against the new ball was among the deciding factors in the outcome of the tournament. The SG balls used in India tend to get soft after 40 overs and make batting easier. While India had wickets in hand to take advantage when the ball got softer, South Africa often lost a heap of wickets to the new ball which left them having to play catch up in the rest of the innings.
Stats vs first new ball (overs 1-40)
While India just lost five wickets to the first new ball in four innings, South Africa lost as many as 38 of their 60 within the first 40 overs of their innings. Only in the first innings in Ranchi, India's top order were put under trouble as they were reduced to 39/3 before a record 267-run fourth-wicket stand bailed them out. Whereas, South Africa lost at least four wickets inside 40 overs in each of their six outings with their scores at the end of 40th over reading: 114/4, 112/8, 135/6, 114/5, 136/8 and 112/7.
The struggles against the new ball meant South Africa's lower order did better than their top order. In five of the six innings, the score at the fall of South Africa's fifth wicket was more than doubled by the last five partnerships. South Africa's opening partnerships read: 14, 4, 2, 0, 4 and 5 and lasted just 83 balls across the six innings. Their average opening partnership of 4.83 is the lowest for them in a series and fourth-lowest for a team in any series of three or more Tests. On the other hand, South Africa's ninth wicket stand was their most durable, batting out as many as 109 overs.
India's opening partnership also struggled after the record 317-run stand in the first innings in Vizag, but in each of the four innings, one of their openers scored a century. Rohit Sharma led the run charts with 529 runs hitting three hundreds in four innings including a career-best of 212 in Ranchi. His runs came a frenetic pace: a strike rate of 77.45 aided by 19 sixes - record for a Test series. To put it into perspective, Rohit had scored just 149 runs in 12 previous innings against South Africa at 12.41 with a highest of 47. Mayank Agarwal also had a productive series, scoring 340 runs including centuries in the first two Tests.
Dean Elgar was the only South African top-order batsman to average above 35 thanks to the 160 he hit in the first innings in Vizag, which contributed heavily to his series tally of 232 runs. After starting off with a century in Vizag, Quinton de Kock managed just 45 runs in his next five innings as he finished the series with 156 runs at 26. Faf du Plessis's struggles in Asia continued; despite hitting two fifties in the first two Tests his final aggregate read 142 runs at 23.66.
Indian seamers out bowl South African counterparts
While all the pre-series talk revolved around how South Africa's greenhorns would tackle the Indian spin duo of Ashwin and Jadeja, it was Indian seamers who held sway throughout the series. Mohammed Shami was nearly impossible to play at times and finished second on the wicket charts with 13 scalps at 14.76. Only Ashwin picked more wickets - 15 - but he bowled 138 overs to Shami's 74.5. Umesh Yadav played only two Tests but finished fourth in wickets tally with 11 wickets at 12.18.
Indian seamers picked 26 wickets at 17.50 and a strike rate of 35.2 compared to ten wickets for South Africa's pacers at 70.20 (SR 131.7). This is the worst series for South Africa pacers since re-admission in terms of both average as well as strike rate. And never before have the opposition fast bowlers out-bowled them as comprehensively as India's pacers have done this series. The average difference of 52.70 between India's and South Africa's seamers is the highest in a series involving South Africa.
The story wasn't entirely different for their spinners as well - the economy rate of 4.61 for South Africa's spinners in the series is the worst by any visiting side in a series in India. Dane Piedt suffered the most, leaking at 5.74 runs per over - the worst for any bowler to have bowled at least 50 overs in a series in Test cricket. Keshav Maharaj featured only in the first two matches and picked only six wickets in 127 overs at an average of 85.66 and an economy rate of 4.04.
The story of India's spinners out bowling visiting spinners isn't something new but Indian seamers overshadowing Indian spinners at home isn't something which happens often. India's spinners took 32 wickets at 27.18 and a wicket every 60 balls compared to 26 wickets at 17.50 and a strike rate of 35 for the seamers. Barring the first innings of the first Test, it was the fast bowlers who struck early inroads into the South African top order exposing the inexperienced middle order to the lethal Ashwin-Jadeja spin duo.
A series of maximums
The rubber witnessed plenty of previous six-hitting records getting shattered. Here are a few major ones.
65 Sixes hit in the series - the joint-most in a series in Test cricket. The Ashes series Down Under in 2013/14 also witnessed 65 maximums. 47 sixes hit by India in the series is the most by a team in a single series, bettering the 40 hit by Australia in Ashes 2013/14.
37 Sixes hit in the first Test in Vizag - the most ever in a Test match. India scored 27 of the 37 sixes which is the most by a team in a Test surpassing 22 by New Zealand against Pakistan in Sharjah in 2014/15.
19 Sixes hit by Rohit in the series - most by a player eclipsing Shimron Hetmyer's 15 maximum in Bangladesh last year. In the Vizag Test, he hit 13 sixes which broke the 23-year old record of 12 maximums by Wasim Akram against Zimbabwe in Sheikhupura in 1996/97.
The series win stretched India's win record at home to 11 consecutive series wins - the most ever in the history of Test cricket. South Africa was made to follow-on twice in the series (the last time they were asked to follow-on was in 2008) and inflicted two innings defeats (first time in a series since 1935/36). The margin of India's wins in the series - 203 runs, innings & 137 runs and innings & 202 runs - underlines the gulf between the two sides in the series.
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