India asked for home conditions and after getting just that in Mohali, the spinners took control to give Virat Kohli his first victory as Test captain on home soil.
South Africa, in the end, despite boasting of such a brilliant batting lineup, just could not cope with the conditions as R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bamboozled them with some outstanding bowling. Here are some of the talking points to take away from the first Test match of the Freedom Series.
Five bowlers: Just because you have five bowlers, does not mean you have to use all of them. There were times in this first Test match, when Virat Kohli almost seemed to feel compelled to use all his options, even when it was not necessary. At the start of play on Day 2, for instance, the decision to use Amit Mishra and Umesh Yadav, who were far from impressive the previous day, from the off was strange, with Varun Aaron then coming in as well, before Ashwin and Jadeja finally got an opportunity to bowl in tandem.
Once the duo got together, they caused all sorts of problems, and everything was hunky dory again. Kohli (or the team management) has done this before as well, during the tour of Sri Lanka, when he opened with Harbhajan Singh after a session, instead of Ashwin, and using your bowlers just for the sake of using them is not a great idea.
South Africa's decision to go with five bowlers as well is something they need to think long and hard about. Duminy's return will help in the balance, but they did look woefully short with the willow, and playing an extra batsman might be a better idea for the second Test match in Bengaluru.
India batsmen against spinners: While India should continue to ask for spin-friendly tracks, what must also be observed is that this batting lineup of the home team is not the greatest players of spin. Ajinkya Rahane has, time and again, showed his vulnerability to spin and so have a few others as well. Yes, the pitches should continue to be similar ones, but India need to play the slower bowlers better, to give the bowlers a bit more runs to play with.
AB De Villiers: Too much pressure is on this great man to score the runs. It almost feels like if De Villiers does not score, South Africa will struggle, in a throwback of India in the 1990s, when all was dependant on Sachin Tendulkar. South Africa have the talent to not have to rely on De Villiers so much, but Hashim Amla needs to find his mojo again, and so does Faf Du Plessis, who did not cover himself in glory in his first Test match in India. The possible return of JP Duminy will also help, even if the left-hander is not known for his ability to play spin.
Ravindra Jadeja: What a comeback for the man. Jadeja certainly proved his worth, picking up eight wickets in the match, while also scoring some crucial runs in the first innings. He deservedly won the man of the match award, and showed just what an asset he can be when he is bowling at his best. Several eyebrows were raised when Harbhajan Singh was picked in the Test squad in the last couple of tours for his T20 performances, but Jadeja had proved his worth this season, picking up 38 wickets in four Ranji Trophy matches, and that confidence flowed into this Test match to great effect.
Shikhar Dhawan: The only big disappointment for India in this Test match. The sad part of it all was that, when he fell, in similar circumstances in both innings, it wasn't a surprise by any stretch of the imagination; if anything there was an air of inevitability about those dismissals. Yes, Dhawan played brilliantly in those Test matches in Sri Lanka and yes, he probably deserves another opportunity, if you just take his Test match form.
However, if you look at his current form, it is hard to make a case for his inclusion in the second Test, with the left-hander failing in the limited-overs leg as well. He just looks woefully out of touch, and it is not like Dhawan makes up for his lack of runs by his efforts on the field – he dropped one catch in the slips as well. Bringing in KL Rahul might not be a bad idea, with the other option being pushing Cheteshwar Pujara to open (he was virtually opening anyway in both innings, with Dhawan falling early) and bringing back Rohit Sharma, who will, at least, provide a bit more vibrancy in the field, even if he fails with the willow.