South Africa need to take early wickets on Saturday and try and prevent India from setting a target in excess of 300.
Those were the thoughts of South Africa spin coach, Claude Henderson, who fronted the media after day two of the first Test in Mohali.
India are in the pound seat on 125-2, a lead of 142 with three days of cricket left. What will be a worry for South Africa is the fact that they struggled to bother the Indian batsmen too much in the final session on Friday, despite bowling on a spinners paradise.
‘Quite a few wickets have already fallen and it’s only day two,’ Henderson said. ‘It’s going to be difficult. Look, the question is always why didn’t our spinners spin the ball as much as theirs, I think their batsmen played really well. I think the wicket is very tough, it’s not going to get easier. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the wicket. I think it’s good tactics by India preparing a wicket like that.
‘We need wickets tomorrow. They are 140 runs ahead already. We need wickets early to try and create some pressure. Anything above 200 I believe will be challenging, but saying that I’ve seen this team do some special things and with our batting line-up, I won’t be at ease if I’m India because there is a lot of time left in this game and anything can still happen. The good thing is there is a lot of time left, but obviously you don’t want to chase more than 300 because then it becomes really difficult. It’s going to be interesting.’
Henderson confirmed that Dale Steyn was nursing a groin strain, casting his participation in the rest of the Test into doubt.
‘Steyn is struggling. He’s got a groin strain and I can’t see him bowling on Saturday.’
When asked why Imran Tahir hadn’t bowled more overs, Henderson couldn’t quite understand it himself.
‘Imran Tahir has just come back into Test cricket. He is seen as an attacking bowler by Hashim, maybe use him in short spells and Dean Elgar took four wickets in the first innings, but I agree, it’s a good question, I would have liked to see him bowl more, longer spells today [Friday]. But look, it’s been a quick day for South Africa in the field. Tomorrow we have another day. I agree. I would have liked to see him bowl more longer spells, maybe that happens tomorrow.’
India’s spinners clearly exploited the conditions better than their South African counterparts despite bowling on a wicket ideally suited for spin bowling.
‘It’s been a bit frustrating watching from the side,’ Henderson said. ‘India has done really well, ticking the singles around. It’s difficult for a spinner when you bowl three good balls and the batsman gets one. I’ve seen in the last few overs balls turn and bounce. It’s just finding the right pace as well on this wicket.
‘I think what the Indian guys have done really well is they’ve been very consistent. So a lot of dot balls in between and then you get one to turn and bounce. There wasn’t really a lot of easy one’s around, so maybe that is a message for tomorrow – just try and be a bit more consistent and then the wicket will come into play.
‘I haven’t seen one Indian spinner not be successful at home. I’ve seen a lot of spinners in the past come here and find it difficult. Not only the pace they bowl or maybe their tactics, but the pressure. You know there’s big pressure on a spinner when you see somebody else taking wickets and turning [the ball], now you feel you’ve got to go and do it; that creates pressure. It’s managing that and then also try and keep them positive and remind them of what they did on day four and day five back home when the ball actually spun. Back to the basics really.’