Your essential guide to the second Test between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
The Proteas have the opportunity to make a bold statement in the second Test by claiming a series win with a game to spare. They would then have a chance to whitewash India for the first time since 1999-2000 when they won a two-match away series.
The batsmen from both sides will face a big challenge in Centurion, having failed to impress on a seamer-friendly wicket at Newlands. India’s top six managed just 59 runs in their first innings and 79 in their second. South Africa’s issues were with their top three – Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla – who only mustered 71 runs among them.
The Newlands Test just lasted four days, with day three abandoned due to rain. Both sides will hope that their batsmen can churn out a better performance in Centurion on a similar pitch.
Will the bowlers dominate again or can the batsman step up, adapt their game plans and make some runs?
Another seamer-friendly wicket is expected for the second Test, but expect more bounce at SuperSport Park than at Newlands.
ALSO READ: Pace, bounce and a bit of turn
Players to watch
Hardik Pandya has an important role for India. If we learned anything from the Newlands Test, it’s that the No 7 role is extremely important. Picking a player capable of taking responsibility with bat and ball is vital. Pandya was the top-scorer in Cape Town with his 93 off 95 balls crucial to India’s first-innings revival. He also finished with bowling match figures of 3-80 and showed aggression as India’s fourth-seamer option.
For South Africa, all eyes will be on Dale Steyn’s replacement. The three options are clearly Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi and Temba Bavuma. Ottis Gibson is likely to stick to his four-seamer attacking strategy so that rules out Bavuma. The toss up is between Morris and Ngidi. Morris edges Ngidi on the batting front. As a fourth bowling option Ngidi has stamina and pace in his favour. South Africa will get more overs out of Ngidi than they would out of Morris so if Gibson wants to play his six-five system, then Vernon Philander can fill the all-rounder role and Ngidi will be a straight swap for Steyn.
ALSO READ: Faf: Morris is inconsistent
More bounce is expected from the SuperSport Park pitch and for India to exploit this, Ishant Sharma should replace Jasprit Bumrah. We saw how Elgar struggled with the shorter deliveries at Newlands, so the logical choice will be to pick Sharma, who is a short-ball specialist.
India – 1. Shikhar Dhawan, 2. Murali Vijay, 3. Cheteshwar Pujara, 4. Virat Kohli (c), 5.Rohit Sharma, 6. Ravichandran Ashwin 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Wriddhiman Saha, 9. Mohammed Shami/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10. Umesh Yadav, 11. Ishant Sharma.
Ngidi would make it into my Proteas XI, but I think it would be a brave move for Gibson to pick him over Morris, who provides a batting option and has enough pace to hassle India.
South Africa – 1. Dean Elgar, 2. Aiden Markram, 3. Hashim Amla, 4. Faf du Plessis, 5. AB de Villiers, 6.Quinton de Kock, 7. Chris Morris, 8. Vernon Philander, 9. Morne Morkel, 10. Kagiso Rabada, 11. Keshav Maharaj.
– South Africa’s highest total at SuperSport Park (620-4 dec) and India’s lowest total at the venue (136) came in December 2010.
– SA’s largest win over India at SuperSport Park was an innings and 25-run first Test victory in December 2010.
– Highest score at the venue is Hashim Amla’s 208 in December 2014.
– Best bowling figures in a match at the venue was Kagiso Rabada’s 13-144 against England in January 2016.
– Best bowling figures in a match at the venue versus India was Morne Morkel’s 7–114 in December 2010.
Faf du Plessis on the pitch: ‘The wicket looks a bit browner than I thought it would be. From what I got from the groundsman, the grass on the wicket has been burned from the heat last week when it was very hot. We’ve asked for pace and bounce, so hopefully, we will get that over the next five days.’
Virat Kohli on the pitch: ‘It looks like a very lively pitch, exactly how we expected to be. We want it that way so that both teams can be in the contest, provided that they play good cricket.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images