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South Africa vs India: 2nd Test Preview

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As the cricketing bandwagon moves to Durban, one of the faster pitches in world cricket await the Indian cricket team at the Kingsmead Cricket Ground. Quite interestingly, the last time they toured the rainbow nation, Kingsmead turned out to be quite lucky for them. So the big question is - after the thrilling draw at Johannesburg, can India pull of a coup with one of its most inexperienced line-ups ever? Or will the world’s top ranked team prevail?

Despite the draw and the sparse crowds, Test cricket was surely the winner at Johannesburg, when the game ended there on Sunday. And the evenly matched contest ensures that Durban would be like the knock-out bout between these top two teams.

While South Africa would want to assert their dominance at home, India would want to make sure that the competitiveness shown at the Wanderers wasn’t a one off thing and that they can indeed compete overseas.

South Africa

The biggest blow to South Africa came in the form of an injury to Morne Morkel. Before that freak injury occurred, Morkel had been terrific, constantly asking questions to the Indian batsmen. Kyle Abbott has been called up as a cover, and it is yet to be seen whether Morkel can be fit in time or not.

The Proteas would want to display the character that they showed in their second innings, all throughout the Test at Durban. For the first three and a half days, the Indians were dominating in what seemed to be a second Johannesburg win for them, but South Africa came back strongly with the help of some brilliant batting by AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.

Jacques Kallis happens to be the South Africa’s headache at present. Despite the fine bowling effort and an unlucky dismissal, Kallis needs to do a lot more than a free-flowing 34 to prove that he is indeed a force to reckon with. Amidst the rumours of Smith wanting a specialist wicket-keeper in the playing XI and the resurgence of Faf du Plessis’ form, Kallis has a lot to deliver in order to silence his detractors.

India

What Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara did in the last game was something even the Fab 4 couldn’t do in their first trips to South Africa. The effortless manner in which the modern maestros of Indian cricket scored those runs has gone a long way in shutting up the doubters out there. The confidence is sure to rub off on the other members of the team, increasing the possibility of seeing a more determined and confident Indian team at Durban.

However, the Indian team would be unhappy in the way they bowled in the 2nd innings, and the fact that they could not win the Test despite being in a stronger position for the majority of its duration, is sure to hurt them. The fast bowlers led by Zaheer Khan put in a lot of effort in the previous game and it’d be interesting to find out how fit they are when the 2nd Test begins in two days time.

Ravichandran Ashwin has been India’s premier spinner at home; however, he has averaged better as a batsman than as a bowler – whenever he has gone overseas. With little to do in the 1st innings, and with no returns in the second, the off spinner from Tamil Nadu must get his act together, considering two successful spinners are waiting in the wings.

Key Players:

Dale Steyn: He has posed the biggest threat to all teams from across the world. The deadliest fast-bowler in world cricket at present, is likely to be gifted a fast, bouncy track at Durban. With the new ball in hand and with the Indian batsmen facing him, will he try doing an a la Mitchell Johnson?

Virat Kohli: He has scored at Perth, at Adelaide and now at Johannesburg. Indian cricket’s greatest gift after Tendulkar is making progress in leaps and bounds. With the series on the line and a chance for India to create history, Kohli would look to up the ante and produce a master class for his team.

Likely Teams:

South Africa: G Smith (Capt), A Petersen, H Amla, J Kallis, F du Plessis, AB de Villiers, J Duminy, V Philander, K Abbott, D Steyn, I Tahir

India: M Vijay, S Dhawan, C Pujara, V Kohli, R Sharma, A Rahane, MS Dhoni (Capt), Z Khan, R Ashwin, M Shami, I Sharma

Prediction: It’s hard to predict the outcome of this match, expect both teams to go hard at each other. Whatever happens, it is surely going to be an advertisement for Test match cricket.