CENTURION: Indomitable at home, India's batsmen capitulated in the face of South Africa's menacing pace attack to suffer a 135-run drubbing in the second Test here today, ending a nine-series unbeaten run for Virat Kohli's world No.1 side.
After the 72-run loss in the opening Test, the margin got bigger here as the visitors handed the home side a 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Rohit Sharma's 47 was the lone noteworthy contribution in a chase of 287, which was a tall ask from the very beginning given the unpredictable bounce of the pitch.
The Indians folded for 151 in 50.2 overs, never really offering a fight.
Debutant Lungi Ngidi was the newest fast-bowling nemesis that India discovered as he snared six scalps for a mere 39 runs in 12.2 overs. Ngidi collected the man of the match award for his phenomenal debut show, which also included the prized wicket of Kohli in the second innings.
"We failed to get a good partnership and take lead. We have let ourselves down. The bowlers have done the job but the batsmen have let the team down," Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
"We tried but we weren't good enough, especially in the fielding department. That's why they (South Africa) are the winner," he added.
It was a revenge of sorts for Faf du Plessis' men, who had been blanked 3-0 by hosts India in 2015. The defeat ended the aura of invincibility that the Indian team had attained in the last one year, thanks largely to big wins registered in friendly sub-continental dustbowls.
From team selection to shot selection, to running between the wickets to the absence of sheer grit, India were left pondering quite a few issues at the end of just their second Test away from the sub-continent in more than a year.
On the other hand, the South Africans showed just why their pace attack is considered the most fearsome in the world.
"150-odd runs (for himself) means nothing now that we have lost the series. If we had won, even a 30 would have mattered more. As a team, you want to win collectively," said a dejected Kohli.
A testament to the quality was Ngidi, who became only the sixth Proteas pacer to pick a five-wicket haul in his debut Test.
Lance Klusener (8/62 vs India in 1996), Charles Langeveldt (5/46 vs England in 2005), Vernon Philander (5/15 vs Australia in 2011), Merchant de Lange (7/81 vs Sri Lanka in 2011) and Kyle Abbott (7/29 vs Pakistan in 2013) are part of the illustrious club.
Indian, in contrast, embarrassed themselves. The team had been reduced to 87/7 at one stage, looking firmly down the barrel.
Starting from overnight 35/3, it was another horrific first hour of play for the visitors.
On the 19th ball of the morning, in the 27th over, Cheteshwar Pujara (19) was run out for the second time in the match. He went for an unnecessary third run and couldn't beat AB de Villiers' throw from the deep, which Quinton de Kock swiftly passed to the stumps.
After his suicidal run-out in the first innings, Pujara became the first Indian batsman to be run-out twice in the same Test.
Three overs later, Parthiv Patel (19) pulled Kagiso Rabada (3-47) and a flying Morne Morkel took a brilliant catch at the deep square leg boundary.
Hardik Pandya (6) added 18 runs with Rohit (47 runs, 74 balls, 6 fours, 1 six). But then played a poor stroke off Ngidi in an attempt to lift the ball over slip cordon.
Instead, Pandya was caught behind leaving India at 83/6.
Ten balls later, R Ashwin (3) was caught behind off Ngidi and India's hopes to even salvage a draw lay in tatters.
Mohammed Shami (28 runs, 24 balls, 5 fours) though provided a ray of hope. He put on 54 runs off 61 balls with Rohit for the eighth wicket. In doing so, the duo pushed India past 100 in the 39th over.
Just ahead of the scheduled lunch break, in the 48th over, Rohit was caught in the deep off Rabada as the morning session was extended.
Six balls later, Ngidi then returned to pick up his fifth wicket as Shami's mistimed pull shot was caught at mid-on.
Two overs later, the burly pacer also accounted for Jasprit Bumrah (2) and subjected India to an embarrassing loss.
Ishant Sharma (4) was the last man standing for the visitors, who will have quite a few matters to resolve before the third and final Test in Johannesburg, which starts on January 24.
The debacle is Kohli's first as full-time captain even though he did well with the bat in this match, scoring 153 in the first innings.