The Centurion debacle. The stats that spring out of the visitors’ abject surrender in Centurion show that this ranks among India’s worst Test results away from home.

India has been a bit of an outlier to the global trend of teams finding it increasingly difficult to win Test series. Away from home when up against an opposition that has a good recent record as hosts. Since 2015, they have recorded series wins in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, and, most notably, Australia. Many argue England to this list that the last day of the first Test of the series was in 2021. Was washed out and the last Test itself was postponed to the next year.

South Africa and New Zealand were the countries that they failed to breach and among them. The former stood out as the one where India has never been able to win a Test series. Interestingly, both the last tour and the ongoing one were seen as India’s best chance at breaking that duck. While they lost 2-1 last time around, their chances of recording a win have been extinguished after the first Test.

And yet, neither of those two losses was as glaring as the defeat India suffered in Centurion this week. Perhaps it is also because now we have enough of a sample size of results to indicate a worrying regression. India’s fifth consecutive defeat in Tests played in South Africa. England, New Zealand, and Australia are also known as the SENA countries.

The Centurion debacle
The Centurion debacle

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Biggest defeat in South Africa (The Centurion debacle):

Make no mistake, India did suffer heavy defeats during the last WTC cycles. The most notable ones would be the formerly infamous 8-wicket loss to Australia in the Pink-Ball Test in Adelaide in December 2020. We all know which one that is, it has the number 36 attached to it. Then there is the loss by an innings and 76 runs at Headingley to England in August 2021. That one sandwich between the two results shows just how far ahead India at the time compared to England in Test cricket.

The Centurion defeat feels worse than either of them and there are quite a few statistics to show just why that might be the case. The most glaring is the fact that for all the talk of India turning a corner away from home in the longest format in recent years, never has the margin of defeat in a Test match in South Africa been so big. The previous worst defeat for India in the country was when they lost by an innings and 25 runs in December 2010 in Centurion.

India’s batters below number five put up a combined 16 runs in the second innings, which is the third worst by any Indian team in the 146-year history of Test cricket. Even when they were all out for 36 runs in that match against Australia in Adelaide, their lower half contributed more than they did in Centurion, as did the lower halves of all those Indian teams in the past who rarely ever saw victory as an option when they played a Test match away from home.

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India’s Centurion Test Defeat Analysis

As stated earlier, this game became an uphill struggle for India in the second session of the second day itself. Well, that is because Dean Elgar and Tony De Zorzi plundered more than 40 runs in its first half in which Rohit Sharma decided to start with debutant Prasidh Krishna and all-rounder Shardul Thakur instead of giving the ball to Siraj and Bumrah. Bumrah, Siraj, and Ashwin bowled 69.4 overs for 201 runs and seven wickets. However, Thakur and Prasidh went for 194 for 2 in 39 overs. This is in stark contrast to when it would be Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav backing up the strike pacers and both players had an integral role in India’s recent victories away from home, particularly in Australia.

Progress is the name of the game in sports and India breaking some stereotypes associated with them in Test cricket is seen as a welcome sign of progression. But the defeat in Centurion is a hark back to rather unhappy days for Indian fans. Everyone loves a good throwback but this was one that they did not need.

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