Despite some solid resistance that was missing in their last Test series in India, South Africa went down by a big margin against the hosts in the first Test of a 3-match series in Vishakhapatnam. The Indian spinners were back in groove as they troubled the Proteas batsmen in both innings while Mohammad Shami showed his ability to make an impact even in Indian conditions.
The decision to promote Rohit Sharma to the top of the batting order proved a huge success and Mayank Agarwal also repaid the confidence showed in him by the selectors. As we look back at this game, it isn't just the Indian victory that we need to take note of. There are other important lessons that both teams have learnt, which will come handy in the remaining two games.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, let's note down the five biggest takeaways from the first game of the series.
No issues with Rohit, in home conditions
Most people will describe Rohit's promotion to the top of the order as a masterstroke. He did more than what anyone could have expected to make a statement for his permanent presence in the side. However, one should remember that playing at home was not a problem for Rohit to begin with. It's when he is playing in more helpful conditions for bowlers that the problems arise.
His twin hundreds have shown the value of Sharma in the Test team. This would ensure he gets a long run in the side. However, whether he could be a long-term prospect remains to be seen.
Shami is master of reverse swing
Winning a Test match is always great. But this victory would be even sweeter for Virat Kohli's team as it involved a brilliant performance from one of their pacers – Mohammad Shami – in conditions that were hardly sympathetic. The right-arm pacer has once again proven that he is an expert at reverse swing and knows the art of getting wickets on dry Indian surfaces. This should please Kohli no end.
Rabada is no Steyn, yet
Kagiso Rabada is an incredible bowler. His record is astonishing and there is nothing surprising about comparisons between him and Dale Steyn. However, this match has shown that the Proteas pacer has a long way to go before equalling his legendary compatriot. Steyn is an all-time great because he got wickets in all types of conditions.
Be it Sri Lanka, Pakistan or India, the most successful South African pacer of all time was always among the wickets. Initially, he did it just with his pace. Later on, he became an expert at reverse swing. Rabada needs to reach that level before his name can be bracketed with Steyn.
South Africa are here to fight
The presence of Amol Mazumdar in the Proteas camp, as their batting coach for this tour, seems to have had positive effects. The way Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock batted and the fight shown by other batsmen also suggests that the South Africans have prepared well and won't fold over as they did in 2015. This means that India will have to work hard in the remaining matches also.
Proteas can't depend on spin
If there was one thing that was conclusively proved about South Africa's bowling attack, it was the lack of strength in the spin bowling department. Keshav Maharaj may have shown glimpses of talent but Dane Piedt was completely out of his depth in the match. His lines and lengths were very inconsistent and gave far too many easy chances to Indian batsmen for scoring.
South Africa might well be better off going into the next couple of matches with three pacers. But if the pitches are absolute dustbowls, then Piedt may get a lifeline.