Five talking points ahead of the second Test between India and South Africa in Bengaluru, which starts on Saturday.
Morkel in, Steyn out
South Africa will be without their best bowler for the second Test after Steyn failed to recover from a groin injury. It’s a big blow for the team since he has an impressive record in India. Morne Morkel is back, however, and his return will soften the blow somewhat after Vernon Philander’s series ended on Thursday due to an ankle injury. The spinners, like in the first Test, will have a big role to play in Bengaluru.
100 up for AB
A lot of the focus will be on AB de Villiers, who will play in his 100th Test for the Proteas. It will be unwanted attention for the maestro who desperately wants to help his team square the series 1-1 with two Tests to play. And they will need him to do that. Since the beginning of 2008, De Villiers’ stats have changed quite dramatically: his average has risen to 61.67, and the rate of scoring hundreds has improved from one every 20 innings to one every 5.8. His stats in the subcontinent are outstanding too: he averages 60.95 in Asia since 2008, and 58.03 in the continent overall, which is among the best for an overseas batsman in Asia in the last 30 years.
Batting is usually the easiest at the start of an innings in India, and Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl must capitalise on this. A good start is usually imperative to building a big score and they will have the build the foundation for players like Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers to play their natural game. Both openers will also have to contribute with the ball so their value to the team shouldn’t be underestimated.
The Ashwin headache
He is India’s biggest bowling weapon and South Africa will have to find a way of dealing with R Ashwin if they want to be successful in this series. Arguably the best Test spinner in the world at the moment, Ashwin gave the Proteas all sorts of problems in the first Test, but they didn’t help themselves by leaving deliveries which never spun as much as they anticipated. It will be up to players like De Villers and Amla to get on top of Ashwin and prevent him from getting a stranglehold on the South African batting line-up.
Gamble on Abbott?
Has South Africa ever played a Test with just two recognised seamers? It’s highly unlikely and that is why they will probably have to take a gamble on Kyle Abbott. Not a gamble on his abilities as a bowler, but on the fact that he only arrived in India on Friday morning after he was called up to replace the injured Vernon Philander. South Africa have always relied on their seamers to win them matches regardless of where they play and it is doubtful that they have enough trust in Imran Tahir and Simon Harmer to go with just Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. Abbott will probably not train on Friday but in the end it might not matter. Harmer is expected to be the one to miss out should Abbott play.