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Going after South Africa's target of 208, India slipped from 30/0 to being dismissed for 135. A batting collapse that we've seen all too often in conditions away from home. The argument that it was a challenging pitch and batting was bound to be difficult exists but you get the feeling that the batsmen just weren't prepared enough to battle on these surfaces.
At the post match press conference, when Virat Kohli suggested that the batters would need to step up going forward. And for inspiration, they would only need to look out as far as the bowlers, who blocked all escape routes for the SA batsmen, to dismiss them for 130 in the second innings, with only AB de Villiers providing a degree of resistance. They were very much in the game at that point, but the batting collapse dented the good work done by the bowlers.
"I think, we let ourselves down with the bat, that's for sure," Kohli said. "Losing wickets in bunches never helps winning Tests or consolidating your position. Also we rectified the errors we made in the first innings by letting them off after having them 12/3. We plugged that gap pretty nicely in the morning today. Getting them out for 208 felt chaseable, felt very realistic, but again we needed someone to go out there and get 75 or 80 and not 20-25-30 runs," he said.
India first lost 3 quick wickets and then 4 in succession to leave them at 82/7, far behind the South African target and Kohli was quick to lament the fact.
"We wanted one big partnership to get the job done which we failed to do and again we lost four wickets in four overs. If you do that it is very tough for you to come back and win Test matches from there. We needed to bat better than what we did. Hardik Pandya showed great character in the first innings to get us to that total. If we had them 50 or 60 less in the first innings when we let them off in the last few wickets things could have been different," Kohli said.
Virat Kohli also revealed that the decision to leave out vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane was purely based on current form. While Rahane had struggled for runs against Sri Lanka, Rohit scored heavily in both the Test series as well as in the limited overs where he captained the side. Also, he mentioned that the decision to go in with Dhawan ahead of the in-form KL Rahul was purely tactical.
"We decided to go on current form. Rohit has scored runs in the last three Test matches that he has played, and he was batting well. We did that similar thing in the past and Shikhar as well. Look, these things can always be looked at in hindsight - thinking what if or what if not. But we decided to go with this combination and current form was definitely the criterion. Having a left-hander always helps, that's what we felt. They have got two, in their batting order. I mean it's difficult for the bowlers to set their lines and lengths every time with the strike rotating well."
With quicker and bouncier wickets awaiting them at Centurion and Johannesburg, Virat knows that as the challenge gets steeper, his batters would need to adapt and adapt quickly to these surfaces.