The India-South Africa series was quite significant- as Javed A Khan commented in his thread previewing the series, it was a battle for title of no 2 in the world rankings. As it turned out the series was a draw. India are placed at no 2 in the Test ratings currently.
South Africa could not acclimatise to the spin friendly wicket in the third Test. After India were beaten comprehensively in the second Test the curator at Kanpur was under pressure to produce a pitch that would favour the Indian spin attack and produce a result. And as it happened, the pitch played according to script and granted a favourable result for India.
Ganguly played a gritty innings and looks in the best form of his life. Ever since his return to international cricket Ganguly has appeared as a match winner for India. What I have noticed is the change in his demeanour. He seems much more committed now and seems intent on proving his class every match. Ganguly was always considered to be a class act in ODI’s but a decent batsman in Tests. However for the past year or two Ganguly has been in imperious Test form and arguably India’s most consistent Test batsman.
It is always nice to come back from heavy defeat like this and square the series in such dominating fashion. Harbhajan Singh was crucial to India’s plans and acclimatised to the pitch like a fish takes to water. He bagged 19 wickets at an average of 26 and was hence awarded Man of the Series. Many people expected Harbhajan to not perform in this series and some thought he wouldn’t even feature in all of the three Tests. As it occurred Harbhajan appeared in wonderful form and and bowled some excellent spells.
From South Africa’s point of view, where the pitch helped their pacers were quite lethal. This series will be a memorable one for Dale Steyn who troubled quite a few Indian batsmen. It is strange how, when analysing the list of the leading wicket takers this series, after Harbhajan’s name you see the names of Steyn, Ntini, Morkel and Harris. The second most successful bowler in terms of wicket taking this series for India was actually Virender Sehwag. This is a clear indication that it was spin that drew the series for India.
In terms of batting Sehwag scored the most runs this series, but of course a large chunk of those 372 runs was that memorable triple century. All over this has been a good series for Sehwag and he has probably cemented his place in the Test squad for a while. After Sehwag India’s highest scoring batsman was Ganguly, who made 2 fifties and averaged 53 and who has already been discussed earlier.
India’s pacers were largely disappointing this series. Yes, one can say that 2 out of the 3 pitches the teams played on did not assist pace bowling but there is a huge discrepancy in terms of statistics between the South African and Indian bowlers. Sreesanth was the most disappointing of the lot, playing in all 3 matches. He averaged 69 with the ball and had an appalling strike rate of 122.
I believe with a little less complacency and more motivation India could have won this series. India have been in tremendous form for about a year now- batsmen like Dhoni, Ganguly and Laxman have been consistent and this series we even saw Sehwag returning back to form. In terms of bowling Harbhajan regained form and all of RP, Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan appeared in good nick before the series. Plus, India is always a very strong Test side at home, almost unbeatable. South Africa do get the credit for upsetting India in the 2nd Test and going neck to neck with them in the 1st Test, although they lost the 3rd Test miserably. In the end, because India came back from heavy defeat in the 2nd Test and beat South Africa convincingly in the 3rd, this series can be best described as an even contest, where both teams played some quality cricket but also demonstrated some weaknesses which they should recognise and attempt to address in the coming future.