Sachin’s absence brightens South Africa’s chances in the Test

April 1st, 2008 - 5:55 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Harbhajan Singh
By Avishek Roy
Ahmedabad, April 1 (IANS) South Africa are banking on their pace attack and Sachin Tendulkar’s absence to turn the heat on hosts India in the decisive second of the three-Test series at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera starting Thursday. Tendulkar is out of the match after aggravating his groin injury. And South Africa coach Mickey Arthur feels that the batting maestro’s absence will boost his team’s chances in the match. The first Test ended Sunday in a dull draw in Chennai.

“If you lose a guy like Sachin, it will be interesting to see what combination they come up with, whether they decide to go with five batsman and an extra bowler,” Arthur said after his team’s three-hour intense practice session in the morning.

“India have the bench strength. Yuvraj is a very good player while Kaif comes in with a lot of runs behind him. They have got good options but no one can replace Sachin,” he said.

The first Test was played on a dead track, but Arthur was optimistic that the Motera pitch won’t be the same. He feels “there is enough life in the Ahmedabad track and it will be helpful for the seamers.”

“My first impression of the wicket was that it is a good wicket. There is a lot of grass so it means it will bounce a bit in the morning but it will dry up later. I think it will be bit slower a little later but it will have something for the quick bowlers which is god for us,” he said.

Despite the South African attack bearing the brunt of Virendra Sehwag’s triple century in Chennai, Dale Steyn and Makhya Nitni did manage to run through Indian middle-order. The bowlers restricted the hosts from taking a big first innings lead, which could have put additional pressure on South African batsmen. That perhaps gives Arthur the hope that his bowlers are capable of taking 20 wickets on the slow Indian tracks.

“I think we have a balanced attack. We definitely have the attack to take 20 wickets. Our attack is capable of reversing the ball and can also extract bounce. Paul Harris is a good spinner, one of the most under-rated bowler. It is a new game and we are hopeful that our attack will come good.”

It is their batsmen though, who have delivered with rock solid technique on spinner-friendly sub-continent wickets, who will hold the trump cards in the match and Arthur knows they will again be crucial to the team’s plans of denying the famed Indian spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh an upper hand.

Niel Mckenzie has been a revelation since his comeback and struck 94 and 155 in Chennai. Hashim Amla (159 and 81) also showed the teeth to grind down the experienced Kumble and wily Harbhajan.

“They have been playing in the sub continent of late (Pakistan and Bangladesh) and we asked the players to stick to their plans and they have been executing it. They are playing spin as well as anybody in the world.” Arthur said with a brimming confidence.

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