Brimful of Bangalore
While I was sightseeing and eating in Amritsar, the South African team were assiduously trying to correct their errors from the first Test. At the PCA Stadium in Mohali, they practised on scuffed-up surfaces against a spinning ball. The early reports were that many of them looked a little silly. It turned out to be a dress rehearsal for what would happen at the next venue.
Bangalore-bound. As an ESPNcricinfo-ite (I just made that up, although I think ESPNcricinformers would be cooler) this is a homecoming. Our office is based in the city and though I have not visited often, I have fond memories of Brigade Road, MG Road, Koshy's, Plan B, Cubbon Park and Ulsoor Lake. I can't wait to see all these places again.
I have celebrated Eid in Istanbul and Heroes Day in Harare but I anticipate being in India for Diwali will be more of an experience than either. There are more people so inevitably there will be more noise, more colour, more of everything.
The morning is spent at Gandhi Bazaar, eating dosa with the locals at Vidyarthi Bhavan, eyeballing the garlands of bright flowers and buying two extravagant salwars that I am not sure I will actually wear. The afternoon is in Indira Nagar, walking the streets where women were drawing chalk patterns in their driveways. The evening is enjoyed at Ebony, a restaurant on the 13th floor of an MG Road building, recommended as a good place to watch the fireworks. They are splashed across the sky as soon as it darkens, several at a time. Every few seconds, a new set sparks, until eventually, they were slicing through the significant smoke. The sight is stunning (and the sound too, but not so pleasantly).
Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens is a kilometre and a half from where I am staying and will be my gym for the next few days. I walk there along Double Road, which looks hung-over from last night's festivities. Debris is strewn along the pavements and spills onto the street. The stale smell of something hangs in the air. But the garden itself is fresh from a light shower. At 7am, there are very few people about but many dogs. I want to congratulate them for making it through the noisy night.
After a couple of days off, South Africa return to training but being back at work brings the blues. During the football warm-ups, Vernon Philander falls to the ground, needs immediate attention and is carried off the field. The incident takes the attention off AB de Villiers, who will play his 100th Test in his adopted home.
At the press conference, de Villiers tries to be optimistic about his team-mate. "It could be serious or it could be nothing," he says. It turns out to be very serious. The diagnoses of multiple ankle ligament tears means Philander is ruled out of the series and faces up to eight weeks on the sidelines. Kyle Abbott is called up to replace him.
Things get even worse for South Africa when Hashim Amla rules Dale Steyn out of the Test too. The depth of their domestic strength is going to be tested.
It turns out Koshy's is no longer the place to be. It's a colleague's birthday and we head to Bootlegger on swanky Lavelle Road to celebrate.
I am told that the Chinnaswamy is close to being sold out and after the empty stands in Mohali I am looking forward to a proper crowd and I get one. The Bangalore faithful are boisterous and busy; they enjoy everything from the gritty struggle of Dean Elgar to the sensational bowling of R Ashwin to the tragic hero's innings of de Villiers.
And one of them just enjoys being there. "I'm so glad my first Test was not at Lord's," an American-born, Belgium-based beer-company employee, who is in the city for ten days, tells me. Wesley became a cricket fan through an English friend but he wanted to see his first game away from the stiff upper lips. When he realised his work trip coincided with the Test, he jumped at the chance to attend.
His attention to the statistical details of the game astounds me. When Dane Vilas is on 11, he points out that South Africa's new wicketkeeper has now achieved his highest Test score and then proceeds to quiz me. My memory is more anecdotal than numerical and I can't recall Vilas' highest scores but I tell him the story of Kyle Abbott's debut - he replaced an injured Jacques Kallis in Centurion and became the country's second most successful debutant after Lance Klusener with 7 for 29 in the first innings against Pakistan.
The day dawns damp, but unlike on the previous few mornings, the drizzle does not show signs of dimming. The Sunday crowd stick around, hopeful and happy for a day out but they are to be disappointed. Play is only called off in what would have been the third session.
Wesley was due to play a match with his colleagues. I wonder if they got on the park.
Back home the country is experiencing it's worst drought since 1992 but in Bangalore, a 100-year-old record is about to be drowned by the amount of November rain. If only we could deliver some of this to South Africa.
It drips and dries, drips and dries for most of the morning, and when it eventually dries, there is a drainage problem on the outfield. An area at short cover is too damp, and after a 2pm start, which is delayed by another drizzle, play is called off. Sigh.
The watershed point has been reached. If no play takes place today, the chances of a result other than a draw will be diluted almost into non-existence. Again, the rain does not rage; it is just relentless. I think of Vilas. He has now played only five days of Test cricket, and two of his three Tests so far have been washouts.
Bangalore has given up on seeing any cricket. No one is at the ground, no one wants to play. A 10am inspection becomes an 11.30 inspection and the expectation is that it will be called off. It is. Match drawn. We have moved nowhere in ten days except that South Africa have lost one bowler and may lose another. They still have not figured out how to approach batting here.
At night, the rain is not nearly as shy as it has been all week. Even without thunder, it's Johannesburg-esque in nature. Some friends back home tell me there has been a hailstorm and the heavens have opened properly for them too. Sweet relief.
The sun sneaks through the clouds and there is a small patch of blue sky, so we might as well make the most of the better weather. We plan what a colleague calls, " the biggest gathering of cricket talent since the All-Stars". A get-together of our Bangalore team, joined by some out-of-towners like Alan Gardner, from the UK, and myself.
The generosity of the schedule is magnified because of the washout and I want to make use of the time to see a bit of India off the beaten track. I book a two-night stay close to the Tiger Reserve in Pench. That may sound strange given that I can safari in Africa any time I want. But we don't have tigers. Here's hoping I see one and that I see more cricket in the second half of the tour.
Up at 4:30 to get ready for the first ride of the day. An hour into the ride the sunrise is silent and spectacular. We watch it over a small lake whose stillness allows everything to slow down. It's my first sight of a brilliant blue sky in 10 days. There are very few people in the Pench tiger reserve, and sadly no tigers wanting to be seen either. An eagle is the best find and I am hopeful the afternoon will bring more.
A few minutes into the second safari, we see spotted deer, sambar deer, bison and birds of various descriptions. Then, in front of what seems just another clump of trees, our tracker stops. He tells us to listen to the alarm calls from the deer, which suggests a tiger is near. The high-pitched shrieks seems close enough to touch, then they get further away, and then come closer. We think we have found the tiger and take off in the direction the sound is moving. Then silence. The king of the jungle does not want to entertain visitors today.
Back to work. Make the road journey into Nagpur, a city I remember for South Africa's win in the 2011 World Cup and an entire street of sweet sellers. I will definitely search for the latter again; South Africa, doubtless, will try to muster the spirit of the former to stay in the series.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent