IND vs SA: India hopes to change script at the 'Bull Ring'

The Indians know what they are up against when the third Test gets underway on Wednesday. There will be pace, bounce and seam-movement.

The opening pair of M. Vijay and K.L. Rahul, that has such an important role to play on seaming tracks, could receive another go.   -  AFP

The South Africans will be moving in for the kill at the ‘Bull Ring’. The host pace pack has been a predatory force in the series and a green pitch here will make it smell blood.

There is something about Wanderers, an iconic ground, which thrills the senses. A sense of anticipation, sometimes fear of what might happen, abounds.

For the visiting sides, the atmosphere here can be unnerving. And the crowd, rooting for the fast bowlers, doesn’t make it any easier. Hence, the name ‘Bull Ring.’

For the batsmen, in particular, this venue, with its steep steps leading to the pavilion, and lively pitches, represents, both, a threat and a challenge.

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The Indians know what they are up against when the third Test gets underway on Wednesday. There will be pace, bounce and seam-movement.

The Indians will also sniff at an opportunity for redemption of sorts if they are able to nail the chances that come their way. Despite being competitive, they have not played the key moments of the series well. Otherwise the score-line could have been different.

Rain could be factor too in the match. Showers have been forecast on all days of the Test but given the nature of the surface – the last two Tests here have ended in three days – a result other than a draw is very much a possibility.

The Indian team had a vibrant practice session at the Wanderers. Bowling Coach, B. Arun, who has done a fabulous job with the pacemen, had a close look at the seamers.

India might go into the Test with four seamers and pace-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya. For the first time, India could enter a five-day tussle with five pacemen and no spinner.

That would be hard on R. Ashwin, who bowled his heart out in the second Test at Centurion and has batted better than some of the specialists in this series.

But then, the team-management is likely to pick the best eleven for the conditions.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who could find telling sideways movement here, is expected to be added to the four seamers who did the job at Centurion – Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Pandya.

The Indian pace attack has been buzzing in this series. It is batting that has let the side down. The top-order has not been able to keep the South African fast bowlers at bay and the middle-order, save skipper Virat Kohli, has been porous.

Under the circumstances, it is likely that vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will come in for Rohit Sharma, who, despite loads of runs in India, has failed to make a difference in these conditions.

The indications are that Parthiv Patel, whose ‘keeping left a lot to be desired in the second Test, may retain his spot in the eleven. The catches put down by him hurt India at Centurion.  

Dinesh Karthik, flown in as injury replacement for Wriddhiman Saha, appears keen and hungry, but may have to wait some more time before he gets a look-in in Tests.

The opening pair of M. Vijay and K.L. Rahul, that has such an important role to play on seaming tracks, could receive another go.

The value of someone like Vijay, given his ability to pick the line, leave deliveries outside off and cope with the bounce, in these conditions is immense. Kohli did have a long conversation with Vijay during the nets.

For someone with his attributes, Vijay could do so much better than what his numbers show in this series. He has to be patient, wear down attacks and put away the loose deliveries. 

The Indians need to enter the match with a positive mindset. This might be a dead-rubber match, but then, every Test at the Bull Ring is an occasion in itself.