Proteas search for perfect balance
Proteas coach Ottis Gibson has given strong indications that the team will look to field four seamers in the second Test against India at Supersport Park.
With the current squad that still leaves him with as many as four players vying for the place vacated by the injured Dale Steyn.
With conditions in Centurion looking likely to be less lively than in Cape Town Gibson and skipper Faf du Plessis may gamble on the raw pace of young Lungi Ngidi, who also has experience of playing on the Supersport Park wicket this season.
The decision would surely raise eyebrows with questions about the young man’s durability as yet unanswered but the gamble may pay off as it could enable the Proteas to keep up the intensity of the first Test to ensure India remain on the back foot.
For India it will be about finding the balance between being positive and throwing your wicket away while their bowlers look up for the task and will need little motivation.
This pitch may yet provide a run feast which would play into the hands of India’s middle-order kingpins Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli.
The ability to attack the short ball or at least look at ease in facing it will be key for both sets of batsmen with India having already shown a willingness to bounce out the Proteas.
We expect the more ruthless team to come out on top but feel this is too close to call.
The early stages of the Test match will be key for both sides, both sets of openers will want to achieve better results and this may yet prove to be their best chance for big runs in this series.
South Africa look set to stick to going in a batsman short with Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Duanne Olivier and Ngidi competing for one place.
India skipper Virat Kohli has not indicated whether or not vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane would return to the team.
Kohli said ahead of the second Test in Centurion: “Before the first Test, no one thought that he should be in the XI, and now suddenly people are looking at the other option.
“For us as a team, it’s all about finding the right balance. If players fit in in the kind of balance we want to go with as a side, then they will fit in. We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, and ‘talk of the town’, and all those sort of things.”
It seems unlikely that Kohli will opt for an extra batsman ahead of allrounder Hardik Pandya or indeed switching Parthiv Patel in for Wriddhiman Saha with the skipper calling on his batsmen to apply themselves.
Kohli said: “People need to apply themselves much better. Whether we are playing five batsmen or six, you still need to apply yourself.
“It doesn’t mean that if you are playing six batters, you can afford to go out and play loose shots. You still need to have a solid technique and go out there and be ready to face bowling spells which are going to be difficult. We need to embrace that.”
India may feel an unchanged XI would send a strong message of confidence in the XI that ran South Africa close in Cape Town.
On his home surface and as the last of the specialist batsmen Faf du Plessis will want to put in a big display especially after his second innings duck at Newlands.
The Supersport Park surface is one that may assist men like Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel to intimidate the opposing batsmen out.
Murali Vijay has to do a better job of taking some shine off the new ball at the very least with Shikhar Dhawan likely to look to be aggressive up top.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has seized the lead of this attack and you feel if India are to compete he needs to bring his A game yet again.
Proteas (Possible XI): Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi.
India (Possible XI): Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane/Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
Hours of play (local time): 10.00 start (08:00 GMT), Lunch 12.00-12.40, Tea 14.40-15.00, Close 17.00
Match days: 13-17 January 2018 (5-day match)
Umpires: Michael Gough and Paul Reiffel
TV Umpires: Richard Kettleborough
Reserve Umpire: Allahudien Paleker
Match Referee: Chris Broad
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