The scorecard of South Africa's first innings in Pune looks a little lop-sided.
While there were four single-figure scores in the top five, and none of those passed 30, the Proteas were able to recover from 53/5 and 162/8 to post 275, largely thanks to a stoic partnership between Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander.
The pair kept the hosts at bay for 43.1 overs, leading to some consternation from the home fans. Success has come quickly and easily so far this series, and resistance has come only from the expected sources.
However, R Ashwin, who took the final two wickets and finished with returns of 4/69, chose to praise the resilience of his counterparts, particularly Philander, who batted for almost four hours and stayed unbeaten on 44, rather than pointing the finger at any lack of killer instinct from his side.
I think the myth of tailenders is just overstated. When a batsman bats well, he bats well.
"I think the myth of tailenders is just overstated," said the off-spinner. "When a batsman bats well, he bats well. Nowadays, nobody is really a mug with the bat, they all have the skills. Even in our team, everybody bats pretty well till No.11. Philander batted beautifully. I thought his defence technique against both spin and fast bowling is wonderful. He played with soft hands and the bat face was nicely running down."
Ashwin acknowledged the struggles of bowling against a deep batting line-up, but was satisfied with the 326-run lead in the first innings. "One of the biggest problem with this South African team is that they bat till No.11. So you've to keep bowling like you would against the top order and that includes Rabada (last man) as well. It was hard work, but then you expect to bowl out teams in 100 overs."
As for the visitors, their top order failed for the third consecutive time in the series - in Visakhapatnam, they lost their first three wickets at 34 and 23 in the first and second innings respectively. Ashwin though, believes that the Faf du Plessis-led unit will come back strongly in the remainder of the series.
"In all honesty, I think South Africa have batted well and have played some good cricket over the last two Tests," Ashwin remarked. "Sometimes when you stand in the field for two days, more than 150-160 overs, it can be difficult. [Dean] Elgar batted beautifully in the last test, Faf has been batting pretty well. They have some quality batsmen like Temba Bavuma who haven't come to the party as yet. I'm sure they're waiting to get some runs because these are really good pitches to bat on."
The top-ranked spinner in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings was also impressed with the fast bowling duo of Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami, who shared five wickets between them.
"Last evening I thought the way Shami and Umesh ran in, it was extremely special. The way Shami got the ball carrying to the keeper was a pleasant sight to see ― something that doesn't happen quite often in India. But this seam attack of ours has completely earned the right of doing such things and we aren't surprised about it anymore."
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