South Africa brought their best game in the second Test match against India to save the series. They were 1-0 down after losing the first Test match in Centurion, but the Dean Elgar-led side leveled the series with a 7-wicket win in Johannesburg.
Former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir understands the reason behind India's failure to take an unassailable lead in the series. He mentioned the three points and one of them is the injury of Mohammed Siraj which almost reduced the team to three pacers.
Speaking on Star Sports, Gambhir said, "India missed the fourth seamer. If Mohammed Siraj would have been 100 percent fit then the captain would have been able to rotate his two key pacers better. And you know that once the ball gets wet, it won't help Ashwin anymore.
"So literally, you were playing with just three pacers. And when you expect only three pacers to pick the remaining eight wickets, you can't expect any of them to have an off day. So had Siraj been fit, we would have seen a better performance from the pace attack."
The 40-year-old also felt that South Africa having taller bowlers gave them an advantage on this pitch as they succeded in troubling the Indian batters with the short deliveries.
“You want you pace bowlers to test the opposition batters with short balls. But when South African pacers were bowling, they had more height, and hence did not have to press enough. You can expect that from Bumrah, but these kind of deliveries do not come naturally to Shami and hence most of his short-pitched deliveries went over the keeper's head. Bumrah's strength too lies in fuller deliveries,” he said.
"If you look at Marco Jansen or Kagiso Rabada, their natural length is the back of length deliveries. This was also a major difference between the bowling of the two sides. On one side you have South African pacers, who are tall and are hit-the-deck bowlers and on the other hand, we have the Indian bowlers, who aren't that tall are their natural length is the fuller deliveries,” he added.
Gambhir was not happy with the batting display by the Indian side in the second Test. India were well short of a good total in the first innings after winning the toss and batting first.
They got bowled out on 202 in the first innings and then scored 266 in the second innings. Stand-in captain KL Rahul was the only one to score a half-century in the first innings, and R Ashwin was the second-best scorer with 46 runs.
“But the problem area is the batting. If you win the toss, opt to bat, and then get bundled for 200, it is there where you lose all the advantage. KL Rahul rightly pointed it out. The difference between Jo'Burg and Centurion was India's score in the first innings.
"In Centurion you scored more than 350 and you won the Test. And every time you cannot expect the bowlers to bail you out every time you set a target of 200-220. Especially when one was injured, leaving you with only four bowling options," he said.
(With Star Sports Inputs)