It was meant to be a historic day for South Africa with the return of the Freedom Trophy. As it turned out, the final day of the second Test against India will be remembered for other reasons. With Lungi Ngidi taking 6 for 39, Kagiso Rabada finishing with 3 for 47 and Cheteshwar Pujara being run-out, all of the Indian wickets to fall to bowlers were taken by South Africa’s black African pair. The result of this match was hardly in doubt ahead of the fifth day, but the home side got a little something extra.
The final result was a 135-run victory, which ended India’s nine-series winning streak. South Africa will take satisfaction from inflicting a strong defeat on a side who had left them “scarred” in 2015, but they will also be looking to the Wanderers next week with an eye on a whitewash on what most expect to be a more seam-friendly pitch. Although, given the way that Rabada and Ngidi bowled at Centurion, perhaps it will not be long before we are speaking of South Africans blackwashing opposition.
India’s hopes of taking the game deep into the fifth day and transferring pressure back onto South Africa hinged on Pujara. While he was always going to need some luck against the deliveries that might keep low, his technique would otherwise allow him to bat long on a surface that had no other issues. However such assumptions were torpedoed by Pujara’s second thoughtless run-out of the match.
After Parthiv Patel had guided the ball to third man, Ngidi gave chase and pulled the ball back in to AB de Villiers, whose quickfire throw was accurate. Pujara had turned blind, and his bat was on the line when Quinton de Kock whipped the bails off. Pujara thus became the very first Indian batsman to be run out twice in the same Test, and the first overall since Stephen Fleming in 2000.
It was just the fourth over of the day, and the tone was set. Although Parthiv played some delightful straight-batted strokes, he was undone by a magnificent catch on the fine-leg boundary by Morne Morkel. The left-hander struck his pull off Kagiso Rabada well, but Morkel made significant ground to his right before timing his dive to take the catch with both hands. A delighted South Africa mobbed the lanky quick, and nothing was going to stop them from there – particularly when India refused to help themselves.
Hardik Pandya was the next batsman to fall, and he did so with a stroke that was as unforgivable as his lackadaisical run-out in the first innings. Ngidi served up a very wide short ball, and despite the fact that it was difficult to reach, Pandya somehow chased it well enough to edge through to de Kock. The wicketkeeper was in business again at the start of Ngidi’s next over, but this time Ravichandran Ashwin could point to a decent delivery that left him off the seam and left India on 87 for seven.
Having dismissed KL Rahul and Virat Kohli on the fourth evening, Ngidi was on the brink of a five-wicket haul, but Rohit Sharma and Mohammad Shami saw off the remainder of his spell and unfurled an entertaining counterattack in the process. With Shami taking 24 from his first 18 deliveries, the partnership ticked past 50 at close to a run a ball. South Africa responded by giving Rohit some unexpected respect, spreading the field to him in order to try and target Shami.
For a while the tactic only seemed to embolden India, but then Rohit (47) tried to pull a Rabada delivery, top-edged it, and de Villiers took a superb catch down at fine leg as he sprinted in, launched himself forward and took the catch inches above the turf. To show just how much South Africa were enjoying themselves, de Villiers pulled off a funky celebration, chipping the ball ahead like a rugby player before regathering it to score the try.
With the eighth wicket falling after a 54-run stand, lunch could be extended by 15 minutes and du Plessis immediately called Ngidi back into the attack. The fast bowler duly picked up the fifth wicket his captain was hoping for, with Shami chipping to mid-on to fall for a spirited 28. Ngidi was warmly embraced by his teammates. His feat meant that of South Africa’s last 10 seamers, four have taken five-wicket hauls on debut.
As the man of the moment, everyone in the stadium wanted Ngidi to finish the job. He duly did in his next over, with Jasprit Bumrah chipping him to mid-on. Ngidi turned around and raised his arms triumphantly to the grandstand. South Africa had not just won the match and the series comfortably, they had unearthed a star of the future and he was later named the man of the match.
Brief Scores: South Africa 335 & 258 beat India 307 & 151 (Rohit Sharma 47; Lungi Ngidi 6/39, Kagiso Rabada 3/47) by 135 runs