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Batting key to India's bouncebackability CricBuzz Live

Batting key to India's bouncebackability CricBuzz Live

INDIA TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 2018

There are calls for a slight change in India's approach, more pragmatic than the death-or-glory surge authored at Newlands

There are calls for a slight change in India’s approach, more pragmatic than the death-or-glory surge authored at Newlands © AFP

There seems to be a perception building that SuperSport Park in Centurion is South Africa’s equivalent of The Gabba or what Kensington Oval in Barbados once was for West Indies: a place visiting teams come, see and get conquered. South Africa have a 17-2 win-loss record here in Tests. For Asian teams, the corresponding figure is 0-8. The numbers don’t make for pretty reading, if it is Virat Kohli & Co. reading them at this pivotal point in the series.

It is still 1-0, although there’s always been a fear that the series would become incrementally tougher for the visitors as they moved to the Highveld. To that regard, the “browner than usual” Centurion surface could end up keeping India in the series for longer. Because, Cape Town was just the type of match India haven’t had to play in a while: constantly behind on a pitch with pace and sideways movement, an opposition pace-attack breathing fire with four quicks and R Ashwin bowling a grand total of 8.1 overs. All that put together means, only for the third time since June 2015, India will be playing catch-up in a series featuring three or more Tests.

Yet there is still ground for optimism in the visitors’ camp – not all of which is the mandatory-but-misplaced pre-match bravado. If it is just pace and bounce, they should be okay with a bit of application. It’s when the ball moves around at pace, their techniques get exposed. On evidence of Newlands, they have an attack that, if not as destructive as South Africa’s, is incisive enough to take 20 wickets.

But to keep the series alive after two Tests, India will need to achieve a semblance of equilibrium to their adventurous brand of cricket, which can alternate between extremes. It is balance they seek, both in terms of team composition and approach to batting. There are calls for a slight change in approach, more pragmatic than the death-or-glory surge authored at Newlands. So one of, if not both, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane should come up for selection consideration.

Meanwhile, in the other corner, despite a pitch less to his liking, Faf du Plessis will take comfort in the fact that he is chasing a series win at a venue where the hosts are barely threatened, let alone beaten. There will, however, be one injury-enforced change, and Dale Steyn’s precision and swing will be missed. But his replacement, who ever is picked, should still be excited by the Centurion environs and the prospect of bowling to an under-pressure opponent.

When: South Africa vs India, 2nd Test, January 13-17, 10:00 Local; 13:30 IST

Where: SuperSport Park, Centurion

What to expect: The days leading up to the Test have been hot and they’ve had a bearing on the pitch preparation. There were a few rumbles of thunder on Wednesday evening but there’s no forecast of rain that should cause any extended play disruption. The pitch will start a little slow and quicken up on Days 2 and 3. Spinners could come in to play, just a bit, on the final day – provided the quicks allow the game to last that long.

Team News

South Africa

South Africa sound as though they are clear on Dale Steyn’s replacement, with Chris Morris set to step into the void created by the fast bowler’s injury. Morris is in some respects the perfect fourth seamer, given his knack for picking up important wickets, and he will also strengthen the batting. Otherwise the Proteas are likely to be unchanged.

Probable XI: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Chris Morris, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel.

India

KL Rahul has noticeably batted more than Shikhar Dhawan in the days building up to the Test, a possible indication that India might prefer his technical superiority over Dhawan’s left-handed flair. At the same time, India don’t look like giving up on their project Rohit after one bad Test. That means, if Ajinkya Rahane is to return as the sixth batter, he is likely to do so at the cost of spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Ishant Sharma has been a menace in the nets to India’s batsmen and could merit a pick on a track suited for his needs. That would mean having to leave out one of Jasprit Bumrah or Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Probable XI: Murali Vijay, KL Rahul/Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin/Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma/Jasprit Bumrah

Did you know?

– Hashim Amla has scored 1202 runs in Centurion at 80.13 while AB de Villiers’s 1157 runs have come at 60.89. On the other hand, Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar averages only 33.60 and 14.00 respectively from their four and three Tests at Centurion.

– Spinners average 47.88 from 22 Tests in Centurion and the numbers go higher for the visiting spinners – 52.85 – both the poorest among the five major Test venues in South Africa.

– Mohammed Shami needs one more wicket to become the seventh Indian pacer to reach the milestone of 100 wickets. If he gets there in his next Test (29th), he will be the third fastest among the seven, after Kapil Dev (25) and Irfan Pathan (28).

– The last five first-innings scores in Cenurion reads 409, 397, 552, 475 and 481, and the sides posting those went on to win the respective Tests.

What they said:

“One must not get surprised by the bounce here. There are other pitches that bounce around the world as well. But here bounce can be steep and it can be quite steep from length. Those are things you have to mentally tune yourself to get over and accept that this is going to be the major part of batting in South Africa.”

Virat Kohli believes the experience of Cape Town will help India put up a better batting show in Centurion

“I expect another huge performance from them. They are a remarkably strong team and for us, it’s making sure that we don’t take a step back and rely on a 1-0 lead. If you do that against a strong team like India, they’ll pounce on us.”

Faf du Plessis expects a strong response from the No.1 Test side.

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Updated: January 12, 2018 — 1:01 pm
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