The rainbow nation, as it is called, is not as famous for cricket as it is for Rugby. But for the fans, the South African defence force would be giving a gun salute to the two best Test teams, at least that is what the ICC rankings say, in the world.
A collective batting failure in the first innings, except for Hardik Pandya, and second innings of the first Test in Cape Town meant that India failed to grab a golden opportunity to begin their quest for a rare series win in South Africa but all is not lost yet.
Visiting batsmen had constantly failed at the venue so it was not a surprise when Indian batsmen failed as well. What surprised was the fact that South Africa’s top order, which enjoyed great outings historically, was silenced by Indian bowlers.
So now that the caravan has moved to Centurion, South Africa’s fortress, there is a huge chance that India will improve. They are led by a captain who doesn’t like finishing second.
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Former Indian bowler Karsan Ghavri said that Hardik Pandya is still far away from Kapil Dev, true. Pandya never even compared himself to the legendary captain. But as long as he can replicate the performances, India won’t even mind whether he is close or not.
1-0 is not a very big lead, both South Africa and India must be aware of this fact. Last series in the nation, the series was levelled 1-1 and a good performance, which being the number 1 side India can very well muster, will not just level the series but will also make the decider interesting and will shift the momentum as well. South African captain Faf du Plessis also made it clear.
It is expected to be quick and bouncy though it might not offer as much movement as Cape Town offered. If, if, quick bowlers let the match last long, spinners can come into play on the last day. However, it looks a rarity.
After receiving flak over team selection in the first match, Kohli hinted at changes in playing XI. Going by how things looked in the nets, KL Rahul can get back to the playing XI in place of Shikhar Dhawan, who was dismissed in similar fashion in both the innings. Ishant Sharma also looks set to earn his place back in the team as he had a long haul in the nets and the pitch suits his bowling.
With Dale Steyn ruled out, Chris Morris can well earn his call back in the team. Steyn troubled Indians in the first innings but his absence didn’t matter much either. So any other pacer will make the life difficult for Kohli and company.
Records at venue
- Asian teams have lost all 8 matches played at the Supersport Park in Centurion
- South Africa has a win-loss record of 17-2 at the venue.
Players to look out for
Amla doesn’t like rough patches in his life. At a ground where he boasts of a great average (80.13), the opener would be eager to put behind that disappointing run.
He has been as consistent as ever for India in home series. He only plays the longest format and has established himself in white dress game. Pujara is not at all worried about the tag ‘Test specialist’ and he loves to pass the tests thrown to him by the opposition bowlers. He top scored in the first innings, if we remove Pandya’s 93. Not just that, he faced second most number of delivery, just 3 less than Pandya’s 95. That speaks volume about how he managed to keep firing African bowlers at bay.
Whatever may be the result and whoever grabs the eyeballs won’t matter much to any cricket fan as far as they get to witness a great clash—a clash which lives up to explain why India and South Africa are ranked first and second respectively.