A jubilant South Africa side    AFP
A jubilant South Africa side AFP

South Africa were brilliant in the first two Tests, especially their fast bowlers. They fielded perhaps the deadliest four-pronged pace attack since the West Indians of the 1980s. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, and Vernon Philander were no ordinary quartet. When Steyn broke down, South Africa unearthed Lungi Ngidi, who looked perfectly in place on debut. South Africa won the first 2 Tests but conceded the dead rubber, and there was no doubt which of the two teams played better cricket in the series. Here, then, are marks out of 10 for the hosts.

Vernon Philander: 9.5/10 (94 runs at 15.67, 15 wickets at 15.86, 1 catch, 1 run out)

Philander did little wrong throughout the series. He moved the ball both ways, and mixed them up cleverly to deceive Indian batsmen into submission. When he did not get wickets he bowled so accurately that scoring became impossible. His 94 runs included 3 innings in excess of 20, all of them at crucial junctures. He also ran out a sleeping Hardik Pandya.

Kagiso Rabada: 9/10 (76 runs at 12.67, 15 wickets at 20.26, 3 catches)

Rabada formed a frightening pair with Philander. While there is little doubt that Rabada is the finest contemporary fast bowler, Philander was superior in the series though only slightly. Rabada was quick, beating the bat with both pace and movement, and with age on his side, was at the batsman throughout the day. He also crossed 25 twice and fielded brilliantly.

Morne Morkel: 8.5/10 (29 runs at 7.25, 13 wickets at 20, 3 catches)

Morkel ran in hard and extracted steep bounce off serious pace, providing vital breakthroughs but never quite running through an innings. He has accepted his role as the change bowler despite Dale Steyn s absence, and has gone about it without much fuss. Though 33, he has his eyes on the 400-wicket mark as well.

Lungi Ngidi: 8.5/10 (6 runs at 2, 9 wickets at 17.22, 1.5 run outs)

Ngidi blew away an unsuspecting Indian line-up at Centurion on debut. The Indians played him better on the difficult Johannesburg track, but there is little doubt that South Africa have unearthed another outstanding fast bowler. While he cannot bat, he showed excellent prowess on field, running out Cheteshwar Pujara in the first innings and playing a part in his dismissal in the second of the Centurion Test.

AB de Villiers: 7.5/10 (211 runs at 35.16, 6 catches, 0.5 run out)

De Villiers played four very crucial innings in the first two Tests, taking on the bowlers by the horns and changing the courses of Tests on their heads. He failed twice in the third Test, but made up for that with 6 catches and by playing a part in a run out. He loses half a point for dropping Virat Kohli.

Hashim Amla: 7/10 (203 runs at 33.83, 1 catch)

Amla failed thrice but scored fifties in each innings at Cape Town, the most difficult of the three pitches. He seemed to be in discomfort at times, but eventually found his way back to dominate the bowling. At Cape Town he was in sublime, not only scoring crucial runs but also looking comfortable while getting them.

Dean Elgar: 7/10 (207 runs at 41.40, 2 catches)

Elgar remained Elgar throughout the series. He gave an impression of looking uncomfortable, but carved out slow, painstaking innings. If the 61 at Centurion was a confident, solid one, the fourth-innings 86 not out (he carried his bat) was stupendous more so because the blows he took.

Faf du Plessis: 6/10 (183 runs at 30.50, 7 catches)

Du Plessis made 2 fifties and a 48 but failed in the other 3 innings. Unfortunately, his failures coincided with de Villiers , which left a gaping hole in the South African middle-order. He also fielded and caught well, generally marshalled his troops efficiently.

Aiden Markram: 4/10 (140 runs at 23.33, 2 catches)

Markram got a crucial 34 at Cape Town and that 94 at Centurion the highest score for South Africa in the series but his last four innings amounted to 1, 2, and 4 (he had a 5 in the series as well). He fielded well, though, but not well enough to make up for the indifferent batting form.

Quinton de Kock: 4/10 (71 runs at 11.83, 17 catches)

De Kock broke the record for most dismissals in an India-South Africa series. He was safe behind wickets, varying between spectacular and efficient. Unfortunately, he edged too often with bat, and had little to write home about after that 40-ball 43 at Cape Town.

Andile Phehlukwayo: 3/10 (9 runs at 4.50, 2 wickets at 20, 1 catch)

Phehlukwayo looked innocuous compared to the giants around him, but he quietly struck twice to get 2 for 25 in the first innings at Johannesburg. He also took a fine catch, but that was about it.

Keshav Maharaj: 2/10 (74 runs at 18.50, 1 wicket at 125, 1 catch)

Maharaj was simply not good enough to bother Indian batsmen on pitches that offered spinners nothing. Worse, he went for 3.47 an over, often letting the Indians off the hook. He gets an extra point for 3 crucial cameos in 4 innings.

Dale Steyn: no mark (17 runs without getting dismissed, 2 wickets at 25.50, 1 catch)

Steyn looked as lethal as ever, whisking away 2 quick wickets at Cape Town. Unfortunately, he broke down early and was ruled out of the rest of the series. He batted with character, especially in the second innings where he came out to bat despite the series-ending injury.