As the previously predicted showers decided to delay their arrival at Centurion on the fifth morning, India’s win became a matter of when, not if, even with the doggedness of Deal Elgar to contend with. That’s where the unabashedly potent bowling attack finds itself after years of fine-tuning, taking Indian cricket to where it currently is – at a pedestal like never before.
“Just the way these guys bowl together, it’s something that’s been the hallmark of our team getting results from situations which seem difficult,” India captain Virat Kohli said at the presentation ceremony. “Huge credit to them, not just for this Test match but for where Indian Test cricket is for the last 4-5 years.”
A glowing testimonial to this pace attack’s achievement in Centurion was that Kohli felt they could’ve easily wrapped this game up a lot sooner, had Bumrah not spent time nursing his right ankle that he twisted early on Day 3. India still bundled out South Africa for 197, but Kohli felt the first-innings lead could’ve easily been a lot bigger.
“We just spoke about it in the change room.. the fact that he [Bumrah] didn’t bowl much at all in the first innings probably allowed the opposition to get 40-50 extra runs.
What he missed out on doing in the first innings, he more than made up for in the second, first breaking South Africa’s resolve late on Day 4 with two wickets in the last two overs, and then putting the result beyond any shadow of doubt with Elgar’s dismissal early on Day 5.
“We probably could’ve had a larger lead and the game wouldn’t have gone that close that it did on the last day. And that’s exactly what we figured out in the second innings as well – having a guy like him to run in and bowl along with others who are so good with the skillsets.
Bumrah’s time on the sidelines came at a crucial juncture in the game, where India had to make the most of the efforts of the Indian openers that led the team to a total that they had in mind when Kohli bravely opted to bat first. Mohammed Shami and his immaculate seam positioning made up for Bumrah’s absence to a large extent, as India became the first team since Australia in 2013-14 to even gain a first-innings lead at the venue.
“Absolutely world class talent,” Kohli said of Shami. “For me he is easily among the best three seamers in the world right now. Just the way he bowls on pitches which don’t seem to offer too much to others. He just gets that extra bit from any pitch that he bowls on purely because of his strong wrists, his seam position and his ability to hit that length consistently and areas where you can’t really leave that ball, that’s absolutely his biggest quality.”
“Very, very happy for him to get 200 wickets and another impactful performance,” Kohli added.