India have tough task against South Africa

April 2nd, 2008 - 5:46 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
(Second Test Preview)
By Avishek Roy
Ahmedabad, April 2 (IANS) India will have to thwart off a determined pace attack and a lively pitch in the second Test against South Africa starting here Thursday. The Indian team composition remained shrouded in mystery as skipper Anil Kumble decided to keep the cards close to his chest and buy time before deciding on the playing XI at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, on the outskirts of the city.

Kumble even declined to say anything on his own fitness as he was struggling with a groin injury sustained during the drawn first Test in Chennai.

“I am feeling much better but there is still some time left for the match. There are a couple of injury concerns and we will wait for some more time to take a final call tomorrow,” was Kumble’s terse reply to a question at a press conference.

Kumble’s job has become tougher since new pace sensation Ishant Sharma, recovering from a finger and toe injury, too is uncertain for the match and left-arm pacer Rudra Pratap Singh had a disastrous comeback in Chennai while Sreesanth bowled well only in patches.

Ishant’s fiery pace in the series Down Under made life difficult for Australia, and the hosts will want him here to take full advantage of the pitch that has a tinge of grass cover that will help the fast bowlers in the morning. To add to that, the wicket has been a favourable hunting ground for pacers in the domestic season after it was re-laid.

“Many things have been said about the wicket. There are too many questions and the answers are very little. Let’s wait and see how it behaves,” Kumble said, much to the surprise of media persons.

However, the good news for India is that Ishant was looking comfortable at the net session and bowled with steam for around 25 minutes Wednesday.

India know that in Dale Steyn, Makhaya Nitini and Mornie Morkel, South Africa certainly have the firepower in the pace department to create trouble for the their strong batting line-up, which will be without maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who is out of the match after aggravating a groin injury.

However, India will take heart from the fact that the last time they played a Test here, against Sri Lanka in 2005, they finished it early on the fifth day with Harbhajan Singh and Kumble sharing 17 of the 20 wickets.

Harbhajan claimed 10 wickets in the match. He captured eight wickets on the lifeless track in Chennai and will be hoping to repeat his last time’s performance here. But the pitch is not the same and spinners are expected to come into play from fourth day onwards.

South African batsmen, though, have given a good account of themselves against quality spin bowling. Their recent series win in Pakistan and Bangladesh have boosted the confidence of their batsmen and taught them a thing or two about tackling the turning deliveries.

South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said their batsmen have tackled spin well and they are confident of carrying on their good form.

Neil Mckenzie has been a prolific scorer since his amazing comeback to the team after four years. The middle-order-batsman-turned-opener, together with skipper Graeme Smith, has forged an excellent opening combination.

Mckenzie played two good knocks in Chennai while Hashim Amla made a big hundred and Smith also chipped in with useful contributions.

India’s batting though has not been at its best in the first Test, with the exception of Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, who scored 319 and 111 respectively.

The South African pacers have already found a chink in Sehwag’s batting armour with Arthur pointing out that the Delhi dasher did not play a pull shot till he reached 312 and promised to target the right-hander with body-line attack here.

But planning something and executing it are two different things and the Proteas will be hoping that their fast bowlers are able to extract enough bounce to trouble Sehwag as well as the other top-order Indian batsmen Dravid, who notched his 25th ton in Chennai, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman.

India will certainly miss the experience of Tendulkar on this pitch, but it gives either Yuvraj Singh or comeback-man Mohammd Kaif, who was recalled to the team after a hiatus, a chance to prove their mettle.

Interestingly, the Proteas have played a Test here only once, in 1996, and slumped to a dramatic defeat. They failed to chase a paltry target of 170 and collapsed for 105 against the pace and reverse swing extracted by pacer Javagal Srinath, who took his then career-best figures of six for 21.

Teams:

India: Anil Kumble (captain) Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher (wicketkeeper), A.B. de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Charl Langeveldt, Neil McKenzie, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn

Umpires: Billy Doctrove (West Indies) and Tony Hill (New Zealand)
Third umpire: Suresh Shastri (India)
Match Referee Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)

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