In a low-scoring Mohali test that entirely belonged to the spinners, India handed a 108-run defeat to South Africa inside three days. After a dismal batting show on first day, India bounced back on the second by bowling out South Africa. When the second day ended, the dice was loaded a little bit in the home team’s favor. While Dean Elgar and Imran Tahir wrecked India in the first innings, it was Simon Harper, whose five wickets in the second innings reduced India to 200 all out from 161/2 at one stage. In between on second day, it was time for Indian tweakers to pay back as Ravichandran Ashwin led the assault with 5 wickets with Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja accounting for the other 5 wickets. In the first innings India could only make 201 and obtained a slender 17-run lead that swelled to 217 on day three. In an amazing coincidence, both India and South Africa played exactly 68 overs each in the first innings and while India made 201, South Africa could muster just 184. India began their second innings, by losing Shikhar Dhawan, who fell for his second duck of the match. But Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara held on until Vijay also fell. Just when India looked like taking a big lead at 161/2, Imran Tahir and Simon Harper struck vital blows and took the remaining 8 wickets for just 39 runs. Tahir and Harper claimed 4 wickets each. South Africa began the 218-run victory chase by losing first three wickets in the 5th over. Once again, the Indian spinners wreaked havoc with Jadeja taking 5 wickets and Ashwin taking 3. Both these bowlers finished with match figures of 8 wickets each. South Africa could only reach 109 in their chase and India won the first test by a cozy margin of 108 runs. The spin dominance in Mohali’s first test was scripted by 35 wickets out of 40 wickets by Elgar, Tahir, Harper, Ashwin, Jadeja and Mishra to accentuate the nature of the turning Mohali track.
The first day of the Mohali test coincided with captain Virat Kohli’s birthday. However, proceedings for India after the birthday boy won the toss, turned out to be far from celebratory. Expectedly, South African coach Domingo brought spinner Simon Harper and handed the test-cap to Kasigo Rabada. These two benefitted because Morne Morkel and JP Duminy were still unfit. South Africa struck in the second over, when Vernon Philander extracted an edge out of Dhawan’s bat and Hashim Amla pouched the catch in the slips. After a semblance of recovery by Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, South Africa’s part-time spinner Dean Elgar accounted for the better part of the top order. After Pujara was trapped leg-before to Elgar, Kohli rewarded Kesigo Rabada with his first wicket in test-match cricket. Vijay was the only Indian batsman, who looked untroubled against Elgar and Imran Tahir before he fell to an attempted sweep off Simon Harper for 75. After Vijay got out at 140, the remaining wickets fell in a heap with the addition of another 61 runs. In the lower order, Jadeja made 38 and Ashwin contributed 20 in the India score of 201 all out. In the remaining 20 overs left on first day, India’s spinners struck back by claiming the wickets of Van Zyl and Faf du Plessis.
In the first 90 minutes on second day, South Africa didn’t lose any wicket. Elgar and Amla added 76 for the third wicket before Elgar fell to a mistimed sweep-slog off Ashwin. The Chennai off-spinner took two more wickets before lunch as South Africa took the break at 127/5. While AB de Villiers doggedly held one end, he lost partners on the other end to some fine spin bowling by the Indians. The innings folded at 184 runs to yield a 17-run advantage to India. When India came back in the second innings, they lost Shikhar Dhawan for his second duck of the match but Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara batted steadily and added 86 for the second wicket before Vijay got out. In the remaining overs, India didn’t lose any other wicket.
On the third day, India began with the overnight 125/2 and the way Pujara and Kohli batted, it looked as if, India would set a big winning target for South Africa. But that didn’t happen as Imran Tahir and Simon Harper lured India’s batsmen with their accurate spin bowling. After Kohli departed at 161, the two spinners reduced India to 200 all out in a little over 75 overs. South Africa had a winning target of 218 runs and plenty of time. But they lost their first three wickets with just 10 runs on the board with Ravindra Jadeja leading the charge. When AB de Villiers fell as the fourth wicket at 32, the steam appeared to have gone out of the fight. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals and except Stiaan Van Zyl, who top-scored with 36, no other batsman had the appetite to play India’s spinners. South Africa were finally bowled out for 109 and handed India a comfortable 108 run victory.
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