Did South Africa underestimate the Umesh-Shami challenge?

Bangar: Umesh should be in the XI when India play at home (6:34)

Sanjay Bangar talks about another day of India's dominance in the Ranchi Test against South Africa  (6:34)

Straighten against the angle, beat the outside edge, hit the top of off stump. You'd usually be lucky to see three such deliveries in a series, but we saw three on Monday itself.

Who did it best?

Was it Umesh Yadav to Faf du Plessis in the first innings, because the batsman seemed to be in a pretty good position to play the ball, and was still left clueless? Was it Ravindra Jadeja to Heinrich Klaasen, because of the trajectory and the length, which drew the batsman forward and still left him far, far away from the pitch of the ball? Or was it Mohammed Shami to Zubayr Hamza in the second innings, because, well, because of that Mohammed Shami seam position?

If you relax the qualifying criteria a little, there was also Umesh to Quinton de Kock in the second innings, which went past the left-hander's outside edge to hit off stump without deviating against the angle, and Shami to du Plessis, a jaffa like all the other balls, turning the batsman around and hitting his back pad.

For India, it wasn't just a 16-wicket day, rare as those are, but also one filled with memorable deliveries, especially from the fast bowlers. It's been written about before that India's quicks have outbowled South Africa's through this series, and on Monday, Umesh and Shami perhaps hit their peak.

There isn't much that a batting team can do against this kind of bowling. You can nitpick at the footwork - or lack of it - that contributed to some of these dismissals, but do remember how well the fast bowlers used the bouncers to push the batsmen back.

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Except, well, isn't this a challenge top-order batsmen know very well, and one they deal with through their careers? South Africa's batsmen, in particular, have grown up facing fast, hostile bowling all their lives. And yet.

Most teams come to India prepared to face a lot of spin. South Africa are no exception to this, and in their very first innings of the tour, in Visakhapatnam, they showed how alive they were to that challenge by playing proactive cricket and using calculated risks to try and put the spinners off their lengths.

Hamza, playing his first Test of the series, looked at ease against spin in the first innings, his footwork light and decisive, and his strokeplay emphatic, until he was dismissed attempting to cut Jadeja off his stumps. It was clear that he too had prepared extensively to deal with India's spinners.

But as comfortable as some of South Africa's batsmen - and even their lower order - have looked against the spinners, they've all been undone time and again by pace.

It shows in the numbers. R Ashwin's average for this series (25.26) isn't too far off his career average, while Ravindra Jadeja's (30.69) is well below his, especially in India. Umesh (12.18) and Shami (14.76), however, have achieved absurdly good numbers.

Which begs the question: did South Africa plan just as hard for the challenge of facing India's fast bowlers as they did for the spinners?

"I would say, based on just the general thought of playing in India, you'd assume that it would be tougher to play against the spinners," Hamza said during his press conference at the end of day three. "In saying that, we knew, obviously first we'd have to get through the quick bowlers that they've got, who are extremely disciplined and professional about the way they go about doing their job, so I wouldn't say we underprepared against the seamers. I would just say that maybe we should have prepared more mentally in terms of playing them in whatever conditions that we were faced with."

The foremost mental challenge that India's quicks posed was how relentlessly they made the batsmen play. Typically, in South Africa, opening batsmen would go out looking to leave as many balls as possible, but here, Shami and Umesh hardly allowed them to do that. A couple of Dean Elgar's dismissals in this series, in Pune and in the first innings here, when he was caught in the grey zone between playing and leaving, showed how hard it can be to make that adjustment.

"I would say that with the new ball they just forced us to play at more balls," Hamza said. "They bowled attacking lines, they didn't allow us to leave the ball many times, and by asking us to play at the majority of balls, given the fact that they've got good skill as well, obviously we're going to have to be on top of our game in defence to keep those good balls out, and we haven't done that."

The pitches for this series haven't offered a great deal of help to the spinners. There have been phases - the fourth innings in Visakhapatnam, and the second innings here - where inconsistent bounce has made batting difficult against the quicks, but otherwise, there hasn't been any exaggerated assistance for them either.

Shami and Umesh have bowled brilliantly to make the most of whatever help they've had, but there is a lingering sense that South Africa could have done more to combat their modes of attack. Perhaps their failure will alert future touring teams to prepare better against India's fast bowlers.