Third Test preview: India v South Africa
And so the grueling tour moves to Nagpur, where South Africa cannot lose the third Test against India if they want to maintain their nine-year unbeaten Test series record on the road.
With India leading the series one-nil, with the second Test a washed-out draw, India will hope the Nagpur track spins again, and that the Proteas batsmen, AB de Villiers notwithstanding, fail again.
South Africa have not lost a Test series away from home since Sri Lanka in 2006, and if they lose here, they only have one more Test to play, so they will not be able to salvage a draw. It will be a bitter pill to swallow.
All eyes are on fast bowler Dale Steyn ahead of the toss, as the management team are giving him until the last minute to prove his fitness. The paceman picked up a groin injury in the first Test, and is not 100 percent yet.
Steyn's absence after his injury was glaring, and all the pressure will fall on Morne Morkel's shoulders if Steyn is not fit here. With Vernon Philander also injured, Morkel is the senior man, with rookie Kagiso Rabada and inexperienced Kyle Abbott and Marchant de Lange looking to him for leadership.
As for spin, the Proteas have to pick between Imran Tahir, Simon Harmer, and Dane Piedt for the spin place alongside all-rounder JP Duminy. They might opt to use two of those three, and Piedt will hope to get a chance as Harmer has been lacklustre so far.
Batting-wise, the Proteas will have used the extended gap between action to work of their batting against spin, as it was abysmal in the first two matches. A big worry is Hashim Amla, whose lack of runs has put all the pressure on De Villiers and the lower order.
As for India,. they have no injuries to contend with, and their main concern is what to do about Stuart Binny. It's likely the all-rounder will be dropped as his medium pace will not be useful on this deck, which needs either a spinner or express pace.
Early indications from the training ground are that batsman Rohit Sharma is set to be picked, though spinner Amit Mishra could make a return and push the spin attack to three front-liners, alongside the Ravis Ashwin and Jadeja.
The series has been a low-scoring one, with South Africa's 214 all out in Bangalore the best innings score form both sides. If past efforts in Nagpur are any indication, this game might go the same way.
For India, all-rounder Ravi Jadeja will once again hold the key. The Proteas have been unable to pick him, and he's taken 12 wickets in one and a bit Tests, at an average under 11. His batting ability doesn't hurt either.
South Africa must once again look to AB de Villiers for the runs. He's been man alone in the series so far, rescuing the side as much as he could after collapses, and he'll hope for some assistance this time round.
Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2015 Second Test: Match drawn in Bangalore
2015 First Test: India won by 108 runs in Mohali
2013 Second Test: South Africa won by 10 wickets in Durban
2013 First Test: Match drawn in Johannesburg
2010/11 Third Test: Match drawn in Cape Town
India: Virat Kohli (capt), M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma
South Africa: Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander (injured), Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas, Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange
Dates: 25 – 29 November
Morning session: 09:30-12:00 (04:00-02:00 GMT)
Afternoon session: 12:40-14:40 (02:40-04:40 GMT)
Evening session: 15:00-17:00 (05:00-07:00 GMT)
On-field umpires: Ian Gould and Bruce Oxenford
Third umpire: Kumar Dharmasena
Match referee: Jeff Crowe
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