IND vs SA: Kohli and Co. aim to level scores

Come Saturday and the second Test and India will take on South Africa on a surface with less grass and patches of brown but one that should still offer pace and lift to the seamers.

For South Africa, the series is up for grabs. India needs to strike back here to take the series into the decider.   -  AP

Much like the shoot-outs in the gun-fights of old in the Wild West, there was a calm before the storm at the serene SuperSports Park here on Friday.

The first Test witnessed only three actual days of cricket with the pacemen from both sides calling the shots on a juicy track.

Come Saturday and the second Test and India will take on South Africa on a surface with less grass and patches of brown but one that should still offer pace and lift to the seamers.

READ: Home skipper unhappy with the pitch

Curator Bryan Bloy believes there will be speed off the track, bounce and some seam movement here.

Not as hazardous

Batting could be testing but might not be as hazardous as at Newlands since there should be less deviation sideways.

For the home side, Hashim Amla’s form is a cause of concern. This otherwise prolific run-scorer appears to be having a problem with his bat-swing.   -  Getty Images

 

But then, this is Highveld (the Afrikaans term for a region situated at a higher altitude) and there is bound to be assistance for the seamers.

For South Africa, the series is up for grabs. India needs to strike back here to take the series into the decider.

The team winning the toss here might opt to bat since the surface, becoming drier, could quicken up from the second day because of the hot weather.

Then, the barren portions of the pitch indicate there might be some assistance for the spinners in the later stages.

READ: Proteas' hunting ground!

Ahead of the Test, many theories are being floated around and skipper Virat Kohli did not rule out any of the scenarios.

Opta Stats:

-- South Africa will be looking for consecutive Test victories against India for the first time since 2006/07.

--  India has played at SuperSport Park only once before; an innings defeat to South Africa in December 2010.

-- Virat Kohli has a Test batting average of 42.1 against South Africa; though it is his second-lowest against any team (38.6 v WI), it’s the third-best of any Indian batsman to have made at least 500 runs against the Proteas (Sehwag 50.2, Tendulkar 42.5).

-- Ravi Ashwin (306 wickets) is five shy of equalling Zaheer Khan (311) as the fourth-most prolific wicket taker for India in Test history; he’s taken just two wickets in his previous 50.1 overs in South Africa however.

Among them is India going in with an all-pace attack – unprecedented for the side in a Test – and picking an extra batsman or an additional paceman for the lone spinner. It is not an advisable tactic and India might play either R. Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja.

READ: 'Team better prepared after debacle'

Then, Parthiv Patel, who batted at the nets for a long time on Friday, could be included for Wriddiman Saha, who has a hamstring niggle. The bowlers’ confidence levels could dip, though, with the reliable Saha not behind the stumps.

And it looks increasingly likely that M. Vijay will open with K.L. Rahul, with Shikhar Dhawan being left out.

This way Ajinkya Rahane could be brought back in the eleven without dropping Rohit Sharma – India would then play six specialist batsmen.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (captain), M. Vijay, Parthiv Patel (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, K.L. Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Qunton de Kock (wk), Chirs Morris, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Temba Bavuma, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Duanne Olivier, Theyunis de Bruyn.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m. IST

India will also be tempted to play the tall Ishant Sharma, who was busy at the nets, on a pitch that should offer bounce. A final call on the pace attack will be taken in the morning.

Rohit Sharma is expected to keep his place, while Ajinkya Rahane could miss out again. Whatever be the combination, the Indian batsmen will have to go about their job with discipline, focus and footwork. Picking the length early, playing close to the body and judicious strokeplay will be crucial elements.

The South African pacemen will come hard at them. The host is expected to continue with the four pacemen theory with either seam-bowling all-rounder Chris Morris or Lungi Ngidi, reputed to be genuinely quick, coming in for Dale Steyn.

This is the sort of pitch where beanpole Morne Morkel represents a clear and present danger to the Indian batsmen with his steep lift.

The explosive Kagiso Rabada’s speed and bounce could be a handful for the Indians. And the crafty Vernon Philander has a psychological edge over the Indian batsmen.

South Africa has problems of its own in batting; areas that should be targeted by the Indians.

Hashim Amla’s form is a cause of concern. This otherwise prolific run-scorer appears to be having a problem with his bat-swing.

The South Africans do seem to be overly reliant on the radiant AB de Villiers and skipper Faf du Plessis – he has been delightfully attacking with his captaincy though - with the bat.

There might be a possibility of batsman Temba Bavuma replacing a paceman or left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

Seldom has there been a Test with so many speculations about the eleven.