IND vs SA: Wavering India looks to make ground at Wanderers

The Indians, given the conditions, are poised to go with an all-seam attack with pace-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya being the fifth man in the pack. India is also expected to recall vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and retain wicket-keeper batsman Parthiv Patel

India's captain Virat Kohli chats with coach Ravi Shastri during the team practice at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.   -  AP

In scraps on green-tops, small things can swing games. These are the defining moments.

When pacemen dominate, a partnership that changes momentum, a few handy runs by the tail, or a catch put down might end up becoming the difference between the two sides. Virat Kohli and his men will have to tighten their cricket, win those little battles, hold catches and find a way to close out matches.

India will be playing for pride and South Africa gunning for a 3-0 sweep when the two teams clash here on Wednesday in the third Test on a green Wanderers pitch.

Since rain has been forecast on all days of the Test, it has to be seen how the weather changes the dynamics of the Test. A grassy, lively pitch and a cloud-cover could be a potent combination. So, the side that gets to bat during periods of sunshine might have an advantage.

Kohli: 'I didn't feel we were not prepared'

And the team that bats following a spell of rain might suffer because of the moisture on the surface due to sweating under the covers. The Indians, given the conditions, are poised to go with an all-seam attack with pace-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya being the fifth man in the pack.

READ: India hopes to change script at the 'Bull Ring'

Only a last-minute shift in thinking might prompt the side to field an extra batsman in Rohit Sharma for Pandya or one of the pacemen. Crafty seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar should be a certainty on this track.

India is also expected to recall vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and retain wicket-keeper batsman Parthiv Patel.

The batsmen will be up against it against a hostile South African pace pack of Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander.

Rohit Sharma attends a fielding practice in Johannesburg on Tuesday.   -  AP

Incidentally, Wanderers is the venue where India scored a historic first-Test victory on the South African soil in late 2006. That was a long time ago but there are lessons to be learnt from that win. The batting was resilient, there were partnerships in the middle order, the lower-order made vital runs, and S. Sreesanth broke the back of South Africa’s batting with exceptional out-swing bowling.

A glance at the Stats

This South African side can be beaten and India did fritter away opportunities to accomplish that in the first two Tests. The Indian pace pack will fancy its chances against a South African line-up that is susceptible to collapses in bowler friendly conditions. The match-altering Ab de Villiers’ wicket will be the key.

From an Indian perspective, a good start is vital and picking the line is crucial.

Batting legend Sunil Gavaskar told Sportstar some time back, “What guard you take is important. If the batsman is a right-hander, it is crucial that his right eye should be in alignment of his off-stump as he bends down in his stance.”

The maestro added, “The left eye will pick the line and length, the right eye will be the guiding line because it is on the off-stump. When this combination is at work, you know which one to play and which one to leave.”

  • THE TEAMS
  • India (from): Virat Kohli (captain), M. Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Parthiv Patel (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja,
  • South Africa (from): Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Qunton de Kock (wk), Theyunis de Bruyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Duanne Olivier.
  • Match starts 1.30 pm IST.

The Indian batsmen will be probed on the off and the fourth stumps. Playing in his 50th Test, Philander will be a huge threat on this surface with his two-way movement. And Morkel, Rabada and Ngidi could hurt India with their bounce.

Opener Aiden Markram has been declared fit for the Test but all-rounder Chris Morris, on ‘leave’ for personal reasons, will be unavailable for South Africa.

The host might pick pace bowling multi-dimensional cricketer Andile Phehlukwayo or an extra batsman Theunis de Bruyn in place of left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

If Maharaj retains his spot on this track, it will largely be because of the problems Faf du Plessis has run into for slow over-rate.

The series has been decided but we could be in for an exciting game of cricket on a challenging surface.