Cape Town: One couldn’t have asked for anything better in the Test series between South Africa and India. The series is poised at 1-1 and with the decider Test starting from Tuesday at Newlands in Cape Town, a place which favours pacers due to bounce and lateral movement, one is in store for a cracking winner takes it all affair.
India began their tour of South Africa on a perfect note, defeating the hosts by 113 runs at SuperSport Park in Centurion, thanks to a 117-run opening stand by KL Rahul (123) and Mayank Agarwal (60) in the first innings. However, India failed to repeat their big runs plan at Johannesburg and ended on the losing side, with a rock-solid Dean Elgar spearheading a chase of 240 and squared the series at 1-1.
After breaching the Centurion fortress and failing to maintain their stronghold at the Wanderers, India now have got the uphill task to win a Test at Cape Town, something which hasn’t happened in the past in order to win their first-ever Test series in the Rainbow Nation. But, in the past year, if there has been one trend which has been seen with the Indian team, it is their bounceback ability.
In the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series of 2021, India had bounced back from 36-all out in Adelaide to win at Melbourne, enforce a draw in Sydney and then register a famous win at Brisbane to take the series. At home against England, India lost the first match in Chennai but came back to win the next three games. Again, in England, India came back from a crushing loss in Leeds to win at The Oval.
All India needs is to recollect their ability to bounce back and continue the trend in Cape Town. They will also be boosted by Virat Kohli’s expected return into the playing eleven. Kohli had missed out on the second Test due to an upper back spasm. In his absence, India missed a key batter (though he’s in a lean patch) and his fiery, competitive on-field attitude. It is likely that Hanuma Vihari, despite his nice show, will make way for Kohli to return.
A match where everything is there to play for has got all ingredients for Kohli to rise out of his two-year-old rough patch with the bat which has been devoid of a century since November 2019. Apart from Kohli’s expected return, India have to focus on making a big score early on after getting good starts and stitch large partnerships at a consistent rate.
In Johannesburg, stand-in captain KL Rahul reached a fifty in the first innings but couldn’t convert it into a big score, like he did in Centurion. Though Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane scored fantastic half-centuries in the second innings, the senior batting duo aren’t completely out of scrutiny yet. They will also be hoping that Rishabh Pant will make better decisions in shot selection after a brain-fade in second innings at Johannesburg.
Apart from the possible Kohli for Vihari swap, India might bring in Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma if Mohammed Siraj doesn’t recover from his hamstring strain. Barring any last-minute injury concerns, the rest of the bowling attack in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur and Ravichandran Ashwin pick themselves.
South Africa will be buoyed by their show at Johannesburg, mainly the performances from captain Dean Elgar and pacer Kagiso Rabada. Elgar was the immovable rock at the top, taking blows after blows but stood tall to lead his team to victory. He will also be delighted by performances of Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma.
As the captain, his talk with pace spearhead Rabada and firing him up by giving a reality check spoke volumes about what he wanted out of his players. Apart from Rabada making his 50th Test appearance, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier and Marco Jansen will relish bowling at Newlands, which could also give Keshav Maharaj a bigger role to perform with the ball. Overall, one can expect both India and South Africa to go all-out to grab the match and series.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Priyank Panchal, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav.
South Africa: Dean Elgar (captain), Aiden Markram, Keegar Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Sarel Erwee, George Linde, Marco Jansen, Wiaan Mulder, Prenelan Subrayen, Kyle Verreynne (wicketkeeper), Ryan Rickelton, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Beuran Hendricks, Keshav Maharaj, Glenton Stuurman, Sisanda Magala and Duanne Olivier.