India crashed to a 72-run defeat on the fourth day of the first Test against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town. Needing 208 to win, India's famous batsmen failed terribly against the South African bowlers, especially Vernon Philander who took 6/42, as a result of which they now trail the three-game rubber 0-1.
After the third day was washed out without a single ball being bowled, the hosts started Day 4 on 65 for 2. India's fast bowlers gave a great account of themselves and bowled out the South Africans for just 130 runs, with Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah taking three wickets each. AB de Villiers was the only Proteas batsman who could stand up to the fast bowlers from the visiting team. He was the last batsman to go for 35.
In light of the nature of the pitch, the target was always going to be difficult but what made it alarming from an Indian point of view was that none of the team's established batsmen could offer any challenge. If not for an eighth-wicket 49-run stand between Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the margin of defeat could have been even bigger.
India started well though, with Shikar Dhawan and Murali Vijay taking the score to 30/0 without much fuss. However, once Dhawan (16) was sent back by Morne Morkel, it all fell apart for the Indian team. Vijay (13), Cheteshwar Pujara (4), Virat Kohli (28), Rohit Sharma (10), Hardik Pandya (1), Wriddhiman Saha (8) all failed to hang in there, and before long the visitors were staring a big defeat in the face at 82/7.
Ashwin, India's top-scorer with 37 runs, and Bhuvneshwar provided some hope with solid batting but Philander took three wickets in the space of four balls to bring a swift end to the match. In the process, he also returned a career-best 6/42. In all, the 32-year-old took nine wickets in the match and was rightly chosen Man of the Match.
Following this defeat, Virat Kohli's men need to do plenty of introspection. The fact that they lost without putting up a fight shows the entire team in a bad light. Also, they need to revisit their decision of preferring Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane, one of India's finest batsmen on the road in the last few years. Rohit's total output was just 21 runs across two innings. More distressing than that was the fact that he showed no application at the crease, so necessary for a Test batsman.
The second Test starts in Centurion from January 13.