India look to end series on a high
Two Tests down and one to go! India have had better starts to a tour of South Africa since the turn of the millennium. They came to South Africa with a pace battery that had all the skills and batsmen who were very formidable on paper. The one thing they missed out on, was perhaps a warm-up game. Going into the third Test, they can’t complain of not getting acclimatised to the conditions anymore. At Cape Town they got a seamer-friendly track, while at Centurion, they got a surface that was pretty similar to the ones in the subcontinent. After being the in game on numerous occasions, India failed to convert the advantage into a victory in both the Test matches.
The final Test is at Johannesburg, a ground which has traditionally supported seamers. We could see a battle akin to the one we saw in Cape Town. After many questions were raised by the media over team selection, it will be interesting to see how many changes Kohli makes to the playing XI. The Indian captain has had a history of making changes before each Test match. Considering the fact that the conditions will help bowlers, Kohli will have the conundrum of choosing between an extra batsman and the fifth bowler. Rahane has been in the news for not being picked up for the first two Tests, and had extended batting sessions during the nets leading into the game. There could be a case of bringing back Bhuvneshwar Kumar whose swinging abilities could be a plus over Ishant Sharma’s bounce.
South Africa have very little to worry about! Their batsmen have bailed them out of trouble with a mix of defensive as well as counter-attacking play. AB de Villiers feels like he is in the form of his life, and Amla got back among the runs as well. Both their openers got back to form in the second Test. The Protea batsmen will pose another tough challenge to the Indian batsmen. The quicks have all been very impressive. Ngidi’s 6-fer routed out the Indians in the final innings of the Centurion Test. Along with Rabada, the two bowlers provide raw pace. The bowling is also in safe hands with Vernon Philander & Morne Morkel’s experience.
New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg:
Interestingly, the Indians have never lost a Test match at the Wanderers. They have played 4 Tests here, and won one, in 2006. The other three ended as draws. During their last Test here, they nearly ended with a victory over the Proteas, who were pushed to their limits. Kohli & Pujara had scored centuries too. The amount of grass on the surface is quite a bit, and it will definitely assist the quicks.
Virat Kohli vs Lungi Ngidi:
Impressive on his debut, Lungi Ngidi got the prized wicket of the Indian captain in the final innings of the second Test. Kohli was furious after the dismissal and even stopped on his way back to the pavilion when someone from the South African team said something to him. He will be wary against the rookie pacer, and probably look to play aggressively as well.
Mohammed Shami vs AB de Villiers:
Somebody needs to get AB de Villiers’ wicket as soon as he comes in to bat. If Mr. 360 stays at the crease for over an hour or so, chances are that he may take the game away from India, especially when the pitch is conducive to seam and swing bowling. Mohammed Shami has bowled well in bursts, but it is high time he delivers with consistency. Getting ABD’s wicket will be one of the key agendas for the pacer.
Murali Vijay vs Temperament:
Murali Vijay is a batsman who enjoys playing the big, patient knocks. He has plenty of scores of over 150. However, on this tour, Vijay has put in all the concentration at the start of his innings, but has thrown his wicket away in the end. Can he fight his own battles, and play a meaningful knock at the Wanderers?