Delhi Test: Another spin-friendly track lying in wait

The practice patterns of the teams indicate that it is going to be a tweakers’ tale again. In such a scenario, the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra should enjoy this outing too and help India sign off with a 3-0 verdict.

The Indian Team practices ahead of the Delhi Test.   -  PTI

Only three batsmen have scored four half-centuries. Only four batsmen have collected more than 100 runs. Not a single batsman has scored a hundred yet. Not a single hundred-plus partnership so far. South Africa has crossed the 200-run mark in an innings only once. The highest total put up in an innings is 215, by India in Nagpur.

These are some of the unpleasant highlights of the Freedom Series, the four-match Test series between India and South Africa. They speak volumes about the lack of freedom the batsmen have had so far.

The pitches were tailor-made to favour the spinners and the Indians made the most of it. South African batsmen were all at sea, clueless about how to get out of the precarious situation. Lack of application compounded their problem.

The Indian batsmen were also not far behind. Below par batting has also troubled the home camp immensely. Only it gets camouflaged by the good work of its bowlers.

Irrespective of their nationalities, the top five wicket-takers in the series are spinners, who have gathered 69 wickets in nine innings. Even as the pitches have attracted unprecedented attention for being overtly partial to the spinners and the Indian camp has heavily defended its ploy of playing to its strength, there is no hiding the lop-sidedness of the contest between bat and ball.

It begs for an answer: Is this the way forward for Test cricket, which is witnessing a universal decline in popularity? The International Cricket Council (ICC) has slammed the Nagpur Test pitch as “poor” but can it provide the way out?

Spin to be king again?

South Africa’s more than two-month long tour has reached its final destination, the Ferozeshah Kotla, for the fourth and last Test starting here from Thursday. Unfortunately, here too, the pitch is under scrutiny.

Thankfully, the general feeling is that the strip is good enough for the match to carry on beyond three days. Nevertheless, the dry surface is likely to unveil another familiar script. The practice patterns of the teams indicate that it is going to be a tweakers’ tale again.

In such a scenario, the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra should enjoy this outing too and help India sign off with a 3-0 verdict.

Lack of batting consistency

 

Except Murali Vijay no other Indian has batted consistently. Cheteshwar Pujara and Shikhar Dhawan have shown only occasional spark and would like to realize their potential. Captain Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma must be hungry for runs. The Indian side should be a relieved lot after ensuring the series win and can play more freely.

South Africa will take heart from the fine batting of its captain Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis in the last match. The team can also benefit if AB de Villiers is able to unshackle himself. Decent performers such as Dean Elgar up the order and JP Duminy in the middle will hope to click one last time.

After their creditable showing in Nagpur, off-spinner Simon Harmer and leg-spinner Imran Tahir will command respect at Kotla. Even though pace ace Dale Steyn has been ruled out, the potent pair of Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel inspire a lot of confidence. One can expect South Africa to spring a surprise by giving a chance to some of its benchwarmers and attempt a last-ditch salvation.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (w.k.), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Lokesh Rahul, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma, Gurkeerat Mann.

South Africa: Hashim Amla (Captain), AB de Villiers, Kyle Abbott, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Francois du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas (w.k.), Marchant de Lange.

Officials: Umpires - Bruce Oxenford, Kumara Dharmasena; Third umpire - Nandan; Match referee - Jeff Crowe.