Cape Town - Chasing anything in excess of 200, given what had transpired in the Test match up until then, was always going to be a tough ask for the Proteas.
The pitch at Mohali was a spin bowler’s paradise - of that there can be no uncertainty.
Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra had claimed all 10 of the Proteas’ wickets in the first innings for just 141 runs, and it was going to take a disciplined and gritty batting display to get over the line second time around.
Instead, disaster unfolded.
The Proteas would have been confident, but with Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers unable to produce the knock so desperately needed, the Proteas were bundled out for a paltry 109 to lose by a distant 108 runs.
All through the Test match the surface had been a talking point, and that conversation gathered momentum as the Proteas’ fate became increasingly inevitable in that second innings.
Was the hype justified?
The Proteas, to their credit, would not use the wicket as an excuse following their defeat as captain Amla chose instead to blame “poor decisions” as the reason for the batting demise – apt given his own decision to leave a straight one from Jadeja that crashed into middle stump.
At the end of it all, the wicket provided a highly entertaining and immensely intriguing Test match that produced a result. More than that, it rewarded batsmen who were disciplined and accurate in their shot selection.
In all of the first three innings a batsman got past 50, and Stiaan van Zyl demonstrated for 107 minutes in the fourth innings that it was possible to deal with the elements.
Yes, batting was extremely difficult. Isn’t it supposed to be at this level? But at no stage could the pitch be directly blamed for a dismissal. There was no inconsistent bounce, no ball that deviated unnaturally out of a pothole and the umpires were happy throughout.
It is the prerogative of the home side to prepare a wicket that is most accommodating to their own skill sets.
The Proteas prepare green tracks at home, as do the English, and the fact that India boast three destructive spin bowlers made their decision easy.
Whether or not Virat Kohli will want more of the same as the series progresses remains to be seen.
He may want to give his batsmen a greater opportunity on a pitch that starts well but turns into a spinner’s wicket later in the match. But that would make the toss crucially important - a gamble he might not be prepared to take with a 1-0 lead secured.
Whatever happens, Amla and the Proteas have a lot to think about before Saturday in terms of personnel and how they approach the Indian bowling.
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