The conditions and the injury-enforced absence of Dale Steyn may influence South Africa’s batting approach on day three at Newlands.
It rained overnight in Cape Town, and was still raining heavily at Newlands a couple of hours before the scheduled start of play (10:30). The first ball may only be bowled later this afternoon, and one would expect the cloud cover to offer some assistance to India’s seam bowlers.
The Proteas are in a strong position, though. The hosts go into day three with a substantial 142-run lead. If South Africa manage to bat for most of today they could set India a formidable target.
Some of the better batsmen have battled on this track. Those who have played aggressively – AB de Villiers scored 65 for the hosts on day one while Hardik Pandya smashed 93 on day two – have enjoyed success in spite of the seam-friendly conditions.
It will be interesting to see how South Africa go about their innings today. It remains to be seen how much time will be lost due to the rain.
The Proteas should be mindful of what worked for De Villiers and Pandya earlier in the game. Playing defensively and allowing the bowlers to settle may prove counterproductive.
Nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada and Hashim Amla will be at the crease when play resumes. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rabada, who hit a big 6 in the first innings, taking the fight to India from the outset.
Dale Steyn will not bowl again in this Test match. That setback should influence South Africa’s approach with regards to a possible declaration. Faf du Plessis may want more runs on the board given that he will have four rather than five bowling options in the second innings.
India finished day two strongly, with Pandya boosting their total to a relatively respectable 209 and then taking two key wickets. They are not out of this contest yet.
That said, they will need to dominate day three – and dismiss the likes of Amla, Du Plessis, and De Villiers cheaply – if they are going to finish on the right side of this result.
SA 286 (1st innings) – AB de Villiers 65, Faf du Plessis 62, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 4-87, Ravi Ashwin 2-21
India 209 (1st innings) – Hardik Pandya 93, Cheteshwar Pujara 26, Vernon Philander 3-33, Kagiso Rabada 3-34
SA 65-2 (2nd innings) – Aiden Markram 34, Dean Elgar 25, Hardik Pandya 2-17
South Africa lead by 142 runs