If you go by the way South Africa's top-order batted against India in their first innings of the second Test, at Pune, you would think the pitch is full of demons for the batsmen. However, the duo of Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander, two bowlers made to toil hard by Indian batters, proved the pitch to be a good one.
Their 109-run partnership for the ninth wicket put the top-order batsmen to shame as Maharaj and Philander dealt with the spinners in an efficient, calm manner and also saw off a spell from seamers with the second new ball. While Maharaj refused to target the batsmen publicly in the interview after the end of day's play, middle-order batsman Temba Bavuma accepted the reality of the situation.
Responding to a question about how the top-order are feeling having been outdone by the lower order, the diminutive right-hander replied that the feeling of hurt is certainly there.
"Look, from the guys at the top of the order, entrusted with scoring bulk of the runs, it does, kind of, hurt. It does dent your ego when they (lower-order batsmen) seem to know how to go out and fight it out to do what you're really playing to do," Bavuma accepted.
However, there is no clear understanding of what needs to be done for the performance to improve. "I don't have the answers to why it is going wrong. The obvious one is that we are not able to put up partnerships. We have not been able to absorb and sustain the pressure that Indian bowlers have put on us for consistent periods of time."
For those who are wondering whether the coaching staff of the Proteas gave the batsmen an earful after another highly-disappointing show on a pitch which was very good for batting, there was an answer from the first black South African batsman to score a Test hundred.
"We had an honest and truthful chat with the coach. He gave us his true feelings, his true thoughts on our effort on the last two days. He was really critical of our effort. Basically he said all that has happened (in the past), we have got to find a way," the 29-year old told everyone in the press conference after the day's play.
Bavuma and the other batsmen in the South African team will have an opportunity to redeem themselves somewhat in their second innings. It is not known whether India will enforce the follow-on or whether they will look to bat a second time. Whatever the case, having seen Maharaj and Philander perform, the main batsmen better lift their performance.