TELFORD VICE, Bangalore
ONLY three of the 2187 tests played before India and SA began the second match of their series in Bangalore on Saturday sacrificed four consecutive days to rain.
Come in No. 4. Your time is truly up.
Saturday’s play ended with India having reached 80 without loss after dismissing SA for 214.
And that was that: not another ball was bowled before, at 11.30am on Wednesday, the sensible decision was taken to call the whole thing off.
Then, before noon, the sun shone brightly over Bangalore for the first time since the South Africans arrived last Tuesday. For a few minutes, at least.
At least the match didn’t join the list of seven tests that have been abandoned entirely, two each in Manchester and Dunedin.
SA have now had a dozen days to reflect on what went wrong in the first test in Mohali, where India bowled them out for 184 and 109 and won by 108 runs inside three days, and in their first innings here. Seven days from today, the third test will start in Nagpur.
But it’s not as if they need that long to identify the problem.
Twenty-seven of the 30 wickets they have lost have went down to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and leg spinner Amit Mishra.
Ashwin is the best spinner in test cricket and, on current form, perhaps the best bowler in the game. His supporting cast are not in the same league, but he makes them look good.
Whatever. The issue is spin.
“We’ve had three innings that haven’t gone to our plan,” Hashim Amla said. “I am sure in the Nagpur test, hopefully we come good. We have talked about it but you can’t over-talk something and complicate it more than it is.”
However, there is another side to this discussion.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir, off-spinners Simon Harmer and Dane Piedt, and part-timers JP Duminy and Dean Elgar – another off-spinner and a left-arm spinner – are all in SA’s squad, and Indian conditions are bespoke for bamboozlement by bowlers like them.
SA’s spin attack have taken 15 of the 20 Indian wickets that have fallen, but why haven’t they been as effective as India’s?
The short answer is that India’s slow poisoners are better. But questions remain about how the visitors are using their spinners.
Chief among them is why Tahir, the most accomplished and most experienced of them, seems to be at the back of the queue.
In the first innings in Mohali, Amla introduced Harmer in the 13th over and Elgar in the 22nd. Tahir came on an hour after lunch in the 44th over.
Harmer shared the new ball in the second innings and Elgar turned his arm over four overs later. Tahir got cracking eight overs after that.
In Bangalore, Duminy came on to bowl four overs before Tahir.
The closest thing to an explanation came from SA spin consultant Claude Henderson in Mohali.
“That’s a good question, actually,” he said. “Imran has just come back into test cricket. He’s obviously seen as an attacking bowler by Hashim – maybe use him in short spells – and Dean Elgar has taken four wickets in the first innings.
“But, I agree, it’s quite a good question. I would have probably liked to see him bowl a bit more longer spells.”
The conversation will continue in Nagpur, where it was 30-degrees and clear on Wednesday.