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India return from South Africa with a mixed bag. The mini-series had its moments but it was clear which the better Test team was and as always, it was the team that bowled better. South Africa will rejoice in the win, in the fitting send-off to one of the greatest cricketers of our times, Jacques Kallis, in the development of Faf du Plessis and the affirmation that Dale Steyn is the finest bowler in the world. Hopefully for them it will cause them to look at themselves with greater confidence and the belief that it should have been 2-0; that a phenomenal rearguard batting action was watered down by lack of self-belief at the end.
So what does it mean for India? We learnt a bit about the batting; that there is grit to go with the talent, that at least three young batsmen in Pujara, Kohli and Rahane are ready to play overseas, that patience is not a forgotten virtue. Yes, we learnt a bit but I would have loved another Test to see if they could show resilience as the tide turned against them. It was folly to keep it to two Tests, it was a mistake to let cricket suffer for a contest of another kind. Indian cricket would have benefited from another game.
But it showed up India's bowling weaknesses all over again. This is a nightmare that plays out in front of our eyes and we ignore it like we do the dream from last night. You could be forgiving and say that it was two bad innings versus one that was good and numerically, but also trivially, you wouldn't be wrong. But the slide thereafter should be unnerving, even accounting for the inexperience of two out of the four bowlers.
I must admit I was very excited by the return of Zaheer Khan. And he showed why he can raise the bar for Indian bowling in the first innings at Johannesburg. But thereafter, India failed to convert a margin of 458 into victory and, had it not been for South African reluctance, should actually have conceded defeat. By Durban, just the second Test, the sting in the seam attack was already gone. And Zaheer was no longer running in hard, in the field he was trotting after the ball. Maybe we need to space him out, maybe back-to-back Tests are now beyond him, maybe he had to bowl too many overs in Johannesburg but it didn't look good at all in Durban.
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