1. 5 fast bowlers in a match
There was a time when India would struggle to put up a fast bowling opening pair in any international match and go in with 1-2 spinners even on green pitches. Off late, we are being inundated with a lot of fast bowlers.
This was the first time that fast bowlers took all 20 wickets in a Test for India, at Johannesburg. Jasprit Bumrah took 7 wickets, Mohammed Shami 6, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4 and Ishant Sharma 3. Hardik Pandya went wicket-less while Umesh Yadav didn’t get a chance to play in the match.
This is a far cry from the past where none of our fast bowlers would last.
2. 60 wickets in a series
It wasn't just the third Test, but our team took all 60 wickets on offer in the series. That is also a rare event for India which is known for its traditionally weak bowling attacks while travelling on green pitches.
Fast bowlers took 50 wickets, Ravichandran Ashwin 7 and there were 3 run outs. It was a command performance and in competition for our best bowling series of all time. We first took 60 wickets in England in 1986 and Sri Lanka in 2015.
So this team has achieved this feat twice in the space of three odd years, once in the sub-continent and once outside it.
3. The form of Kohli-Rahane
Captain Virat Kohli was the batting star of the series scoring the most runs on both sides. Kohli scored 286 runs at an average of 47.7 and the only century of the series, a 153. Rahane played just the third Test, but now averages 53.2 on South African soil and his 68-ball 48 turned the tide in the third Test. Had he played the first two Tests, the story of the series could have been different.
Hardik Pandya also hit a 93, the second highest score for an Indian in the series. But Bhuvi’s batting was a revelation: 25(86), 13*(21), 30(49) and 33(76). That’s excellent for a fast bowler in a low scoring series.
But more importantly we got the respect of the world in the second innings at Johannesburg. In a treacherous pitch which the umpires might have well called the match off, we made 247. We have been less than 100 all out on less treacherous pitches!
4. Kohli's captaincy
When India was 0-2 down, there were calls for axing Kohli from the top job. However he’s doing quite well and thanks to his aggression we at least managed to save face with a 1-2 rather than a 0-3.
Kohli has now won a whopping 21 of his 35 Tests. Sourav Ganguly took 49 Tests to get that tally. Kohli also now has 8 foreign Test wins (Sri Lanka-5, West Indies-2 and South Africa-1), which is already the highest for India if you exclude Bangladesh-Zimbabwe.
Kohli kept the team's intensity high throughout the series and with a little bit of luck we could have well won 2-1. He still remains our best bet and is sure to go past MS Dhoni’s 27 Test wins.
5. Overall bench strength
As mentioned, we went in ith six fast bowlers and actually played 5 in a match to great results. Ravichandran Ashwin and Sir Ravindra Jadeja are our top Test spinners while vYuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are on top in the shorter formats. Many other spinners are waiting in the wings.
Test triple centurion Karun Nair was rested soon after he reached that feat and Ajinkya Rahane was rested for the first two Tests in South Africa. We probably should play Nair-Rohit Sharma in all home Tests and Rahane in all foreign ones!
We have reached a stage where we can have separate batting line-ups for home and abroad.
We have a pool of three Test openers: Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan.
MS Dhoni retired to be replaced by Wriddhiman Saha. Saha got injured and was replaced by Parthiv Patel who was also injured and replaced by Dinesh Karthik. For the first time we don’t seem to have a shortage of players in any department.
6. Practice for England and Australia
Had we gone down 0-3, then fans would have been expecting a whitewash in the upcoming England and Australia tours. But we gave a good fight in the first two Tests and won the third.
This young team has been bloodied for overseas tours.
When 0-8 happened in 2011-12, we didn’t even look like drawing a single Test let alone winning it. That’s not the case with this team in the last couple of years. We have lost Tests that we seemed like winning at one stage.
7.Focus on SA ODI series
Thanks to our decent Test performance there’s every reason to hope for a turnaround in the ODI series. We have never won an ODI series on South African soil and this could be our best chance to change that.
Most of the team has already been acclimatized with South Africa and Kohli is in roaring form. Even Rohit hit a 47 in the last innings he played. Test bowlers Bumrah, Bhuvi, Shami and Hardik stay back for the ODI series.
Dhoni is back and even others in the ODI squad like Chahal and Kuldeep are in fine form. It should be an exciting 6-match ODI series.