It hasn’t been a good 2019 for Faf du Plessis and the South African team. First, they lost to Sri Lanka at home in Test series for the first time and then crashed out of the ICC World Cup 2019 in the group stages having won only a handful of matches.
They might have thought that the Test series in India will prove to be different from the one in 2015 when suffered 3-0 loss in four Tests. However, they are now 2-0 down in the 3-match Freedom Trophy series, having lost the second Test at Pune by an innings and 137 runs, the biggest loss they have suffered at the hands of Indians in Tests.
They have been outplayed by the home team in both Tests, but this match, in particular, was a disappointment as India batted just one inning and piled on 601/5d with Virat Kohli making 254* and Mayank Agarwal making 108. Pujara, Rahane and Jadeja made the fifties as well and South Africa was chasing leather for a long time.
Speaking at the post-match presentation Faf du Plessis said, “We know in the sub-continent, first innings is really important. The runs that you put on the board, give yourself a chance. But the way India batted and especially Virat getting 250 (254) takes a lot of mental toughness. To put a score like that in the first innings and two days on the field got us down. The batsmen were weak on mindset for fielding for so long. You have to be on top of your best game if you aren't then you are found wanting. We saw in the first Test as well, as a captain you try and think of ways about the field placements. All the questions and stuff we threw at him (Virat Kohli), he had the answers. Just relentless and sticking to his game. For me what really stuck out was the hunger for runs.”
Batting and bowling-wise, the Proteas lacked resolve and ability to take advantage of the conditions. Philander, Maharaj and lower order contributed more than the top order and its something that has bothered Du Plessis. While bowlers have failed to bowl the length that is needed to take the wickets, with only Rabada showing some skill.
“I feel it was the right selection for this pitch; I thought it was the right-decision picking an extra seamer. KG managed to build some pressure but we needed another bowler to compete, who could do that job. When you look at the Indian attack, they bowl well in pairs. It was a young fast bowler making his (about Nortje) debut, it's about learning and improving. Ngidi is fine and is working hard on his fitness. It's about getting his tank up and hopefully, we'll see if he plays the next Test. All in all, India deservedly are the Test series winners and their record speaks for itself. We will try to improve in the next Test,” Du Plessis signed off.