The Proteas should consider a return to their seam strength for the second Test match against India in Pune on Thursday, writes PHILASANDE SIXABA.
The temptation to stack the bowling options with spin in the sub-continent conditions will always be an inviting option but the South Africans must go back to their strengths.
This comes after Enoch Nkwe and his selection panel decided to go with three specialist tweekers in the opening Test in Visakhapatnam. The trio of Keshav Maharaj, the returning Dane Piedt and the debutant Senuran Muthusamy conceded 359 runs in India’s first innings between each other, and only taking five wickets in a mammoth 502-7 declared.
The second innings weren’t great, either, as they again leaked runs with Rohit Sharma in a punishing mood, adding another century to his first-innings effort of 176.
Maharaj was always going to be the first-choice pick in this series while Piedt, who forced his way back into Test-match contention after bagging 54 wickets for the Cape Cobras in the 4-Day Series – which they narrowly lost out on to the Lions on the final day – was going to provide a second spinning option. But bowling on South African pitches is worlds apart from trying to get the likes of Virat Kohli and Sharma out twice on pitches they grew up on. All three spinners found this out on a flat Visakhapatnam surface.
The tourists’ struggles with the ball in Vizag will undoubtably prompt a number of changes in the bowling department and pace will likely win that selection battle.
South Africa’s strength have always been in the fast bowlers and while conditions in India won’t necessarily favour the seaming pace and bounce they are accustomed to at the Wanderers, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi and or Andrich Nortje will fare far better than the trio of spinners.
Piedt will most likely be the one to miss out in Pune because he failed to hold up an end or create any sort of pressure in the first Test, and although he scored a fighting innings of 56 in the second innings, either one of Ngidi or Nortje will come in to replace the Cobras captain. Both speedsters can crank it up above 145km/h, which is often an uncomfortable pace for Indian batsmen on any surface.
Ngidi is expected to win this battle ahead of Nortje, who is yet to don the whites for his country. The addition of Ngidi will give Faf du Plessis more firepower in a crucial Test which they have to win if they are going to return any sort of positive result in the series.
While culling Piedt reduces the batting options, having more pace in the bowling attack will put the Proteas on level pegging with the bowling threat of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, who are the hosts’ attacking options in their favourable home conditions.
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