Five talking points ahead of the fourth and final Test between India and South Africa in New Delhi, which starts on Thursday.
Steyn out, Bavuma in?
Dale Steyn has been ruled out of the last Test. There is a real possibility that a few fringe players will get a chance to play in the final Test. Temba Bavuma and Kyle Abbott come to mind, while Marchant de Lange is possibly also in the running. The question then becomes who gets ‘dropped’. It would make no sense to drop one of the openers, so JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis should be the more likely candidates. Kagiso Rabada has played every game on tour and needs a rest and with Steyn injured, it opens up two spots for Abbott and De Lange to fill.
Prep not working
Assistant coach Adrian Birrell has elaborated on the methods South Africa have used to prepare for the spin onslaught India have posed, but so far it hasn’t worked. ‘We are trying to recreate the rough in nets, taking a stump and putting it behind the footmarks, to try and replicate the match situation,’ Birrell explained. ‘We have Claude Henderson, who used to bowl left-arm spin, now he throws left-arm spin, which he is very accomplished at. I used to bowl leg-spin, so I bowl from a shortened run to try and simulate Mishra, I’m not even close, but we are trying. And then we have a bunch of guys who try to deliver balls like Ashwin, so we try to make it as similar to the match.’
The Ashwin factor
While all three of India’s spinners have done well in the series, Ashwin has been the main threat. South Africa have to play him better if they want any chance of winning this match. If they don’t find a way of dealing with him, the psychological damage could last for years to come.
What next for Tahir?
A call on the future of Imran Tahir’s Test career must be made after this series. This was billed as his comeback tour, but a lack of runs by the South African batsmen has forced Hashim Amla to use Tahir ultra conservatively in conditions that suit him more than any other. After his five-for in the third Test and with the series already lost, Amla should be encouraged to use Tahir more freely. With Simon Harmer bowling well in the series and taking wickets and Dane Piedt waiting in the wings, Tahir needs to show he should still be considered for future away tours. Hopefully his captain gives him a fair chance to prove his worth.
Application, application, application. It’s sounds simple, but South Africa have made hard work of scoring enough runs in this series. The conditions have been very tough, but everyone is in agreement that the Proteas’ batting line-up could have done better. All the batsmen need to step up, but especially Stiaan van Zyl, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy need some runs. Hashim Amla needs 140 runs to reach 7 000 in Tests, but with the way it’s been going, there is no guarantee he’ll reach the milestone against India.