Bad as it is‚ SA have been here before
How bad is it? Bad‚ but not worse than it’s been in the recent past — twice.
South Africa’s thrashing‚ by an innings and 137 runs‚ by India in the second men’s Test in Pune on Sunday confirmed their third defeat in four series.
Having been told to follow on 326 runs behind‚ South Africa were dismissed for 189 in the seventh over after tea on the fourth day.
The best of their resistance was Dean Elgar’s 48‚ Temba Bavuma’s 38‚ Vernon Philander’s 37 and Keshav Maharaj’s 22. No-one else reached double figures.
It’s the last time Maharaj will pick up a bat or ball for up to three weeks.
The shoulder injury he sustained while diving in the field on Friday has ruled him out for the third Test in Ranchi‚ which starts on Saturday.
Maharaj’s stoicism has been one of the few less negative aspects — it’s difficult to find positives — of South Africa’s performance in this series.
He is their highest wicket-taker with a half-dozen scalps‚ although they were taken at an average of 85.66‚ and the 127 overs he bowled is almost twice as many as anyone else in the visitors’ attack.
Maharaj faced 229 balls and his 72 in the first innings in Pune was his first Test half-century.
He will be replaced in the squad by George Linde‚ the uncapped left-arm spinner who took match figures of 11/131 for the Cobras against the Lions in Potchefstroom in the opening round of franchise first-class fixtures last week.
Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja led India’s surge to victory with three wickets each.
The Indians caught superbly and ill-considered strokes by the South Africans did the rest.
Worryingly‚ the batters were as likely to commit serious errors facing India’s fast bowlers as they were against their old bogeymen‚ the spinners.
Elgar’s sliced hoik to long-off off Ashwin and Theunis de Bruyn clumsy fiddle down the leg side to Yadav were the prime examples.
And that on a pitch that‚ while recognisably Indian‚ was far from unrecognisable for the South Africans.
India’s 13th test win over South Africa was also their biggest against them‚ and only the second time they have beaten them by an innings in their 38 meetings.
It sealed a run of 11 successful home series‚ a world record. Seven of them have been achieved under Virat Kohli’s masterful captaincy.
India have lost only one of the 32 Tests they have played at home since being beaten twice by England in November and December 2012.
For Faf du Plessis‚ his team and their supporters‚ this — South Africa’s 21st series loss in the 88 rubbers they have played since re-admission — will feel like rock bottom.
But it’s happened before.
Between August 2004 and March 2005‚ South Africa lost in Sri Lanka and India and returned home to go down to England before recovering with victory over Zimbabwe in another home series.
Then‚ from December 2005 to July 2006‚ they lost to Australia‚ home and away‚ beat New Zealand at home and then went down in Sri Lanka.
Depending on whether your glass if half-full or half-empty‚ that means the straits are not unprecedentedly dire — or that they will get worse when England arrive in December for a series of four Tests.