Virat Kohli’s men, like an all-conquering army of a medieval king, marched on to their record 11th consecutive series win at home. The South African batting, like the rain, failed to deliver on its promise.
That’s how the contrast stood in the second Test between India and the Proteas.
The match, which had begun with the threat of heavy rain interruption on all five days, ended without a single drop of interference, 6.1 overs after the tea break on the fourth day. South Africa were all out for 189 in 67.1 overs in their second innings.
India’s imposing win by an innings and 137 runs gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. This was also India’s biggest ever victory over South Africa, eclipsing the innings and 57-run win at the Eden in 2009-10.
The dominance of the Indian team led by Kohli has acquired a certain mechanical expertise, whereby their triumph on most occasions seems almost an inevitable occurrence. It is as if they are programmed to win, with all other possible results efficiently kept out of their collective conscience.
And when a rare defeat pops up, it is merely seen as an aberration, a minor, rectifiable glitch in the system.
Such ownership of utmost dominance, however, is not new to cricket, or for that matter other sporting disciplines. In cricket, the Australians have known the taste of such absolute mastery.
In fact, Kohli’s team, with their 11 home series triumphs on the trot, have gone past the record of the Australians only.
Australia had 10 successive series wins at home twice — the first between 1994 and 2001, and the second between 2004 and 2008. Kohli and Co. have just bettered it.
In football too, there are stories of “The Invincibles” – the Preston North End team of the 1888–89 season and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team of the 2003-04 season.
So Kohli’s India have joined an elite club, they have become a part of the cricketing folklore, which would narrate tales of a reign by a “bearded king”.
It took just two balls on Sunday morning for India to get their first wicket when Ishant trapped Aiden Markram lbw for a duck.
No review was taken by the visitors, but the replays showed that the ball would have missed the stumps.
Thereafter, the South African wickets fell almost with the regularity of a pendulum. The Indians hunted in a pack — Ravichandran Ashwin’s guile, Ravindra Jadeja’s accuracy and Wriddhiman Saha’s gravity-defying acts combined to prey on the South Africans.
Among the Indian bowlers, Umesh Yadav and Jadeja claimed three wickets each, while Ashwin picked up two.
Faf du Plessis called his team a “young” one, one whose lack of experience is directly reflected in their lack of confidence. But that’s no excuse at the top level.
Kohli’s team, on the other hand, shone brighter than the mid-day sun. Ferociously competitive, they have come a long way in establishing themselves as merchants of win.
Like Pete Sampras once said, “All I cared about in tennis was winning.”