South Africa will look to history for inspiration as they attempt the mammoth task of chasing down 310 for victory in the third Test in Nagpur.
The Protea need a further 278 runs to make history after ending day two on 32-2. Although the prospects look bleak from the outside, Proteas coach Russell Domingo says there is belief and determination within the squad to accomplish what no touring side has done.
It’s three years to the day that Faf du Plessis’ courageous century on debut earned South Africa a thrilling draw against Australia in Adelaide, and who can forget the valiant effort by Du Plessis and AB de Villiers at the Wanderers to get the team within a sniff of victory against India after defeat had seemed certain. Both batsmen are still to bat, and although conditions are extreme, motivation and hunger can go a long way.
‘We have to believe that we can do it,’ Domingo said at stumps on Thursday. ‘We know that we have the players capable of pulling off what would definitely go down as one of the greatest chases in the game so we have to have that belief. Some strange things have happened in this game before.
‘We are obviously a long way behind this game at the moment, but we are not discounting ourselves just yet.’
Domingo insists that the only way for the batsmen to approach the mammoth task ahead is to play with positive intent. Some of the batsmen were dismissed while taking the initiative in the first innings but more of the same approach will be needed if they are to relieve the pressure created by Ravi Ashwin and his colleagues.
‘It was part of it [the plan], but I think it has been shown that if you just sit there and look to absorb without trying to score, you will get a ball that will get you out,’ he said.
‘So the plan was not to play loosely, but look to score. We want to be positive in our defence and positive when we are attacking. It didn’t work this morning, unfortunately, but the guys who have got runs have looked to score. We are going to look to score tomorrow, because there is no way that we will block out for three days.’
Although the conditions and the poor batting took the spotlight, Domingo was full of praise for the bowlers, who dismissed India for 173.
‘Imran Tahir bowled really well today, and Morne Morkel has been outstanding, those are the two standout performers today.
Tahir only came on to bowl after 24 overs and then proceeded to take five wickets, raising eyebrows as to why it took Hashim Amla so long to give him a go.
‘I think the captain felt that Simon [Harmer] was bowling really well, particularly to the left-hander. it looked like he would get the left-hander out at any stage. Then he brought JP [Duminy] on with the ball spinning away from JP. He thought that JP could maybe do some damage. Those are the main reasons he didn’t bowl Tahir sooner.
‘Imran has bowled really well in this game and in the whole series but we do know that he has a tendency to at times leak runs. particularly when there are two batters set. The captain probably felt that at shat stage to go with the bowler he felt had more control at that particular stage.’
Domingo declined to criticise the pitch even though it was the biggest talking point of the day’s play.
‘I think if you are winning the series it’s easier to criticise the pitch and if you are behind in the series it’s difficult to criticise the pitch if that makes some sense. You have to give India credit. They have prepared wickets that suit their style of play; their spinners have been really good and they have to take some credit for that. So we are not going to criticise the pitch right now.’