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Posted at: Jan 13, 2018, 1:44 AM; last updated: Jan 13, 2018, 1:44 AM (IST)

Test by fire

Quick Centurion wicket will challenge India; selection headcade for visitors ahead of the second Test
Test by fire
Virat Kohli shares a light moment with teammates Wridhiman Saha and Shikhar Dhawan during their training session in Pretoria on Friday. AP/PTI

Centurion, January 12

The excellent SuperSport Park stadium, with its lovely green embankments for spectators to lie down and roll about, presents an enormous challenge to India. After a hammering in less than three days of play in the first Test at Cape Town, India face another huge challenge here in the second Test, which starts tomorrow.

South Africa have played 22 Tests at the venue and won 17 of them, losing only two. India’s only Test at SuperSport Park resulted in a big innings defeat, despite the presence of all-time greats Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni.

The wicket here typically suits South Africa’s pace attack, for it’s generally quite fast. South Africa, used to the conditions, have made 13 of the top 14 innings totals at the venue; the best for a visiting team is 459, made by India in 2010. Even Australia have never touched 400 here.

In other words, Virat Kohli’s men face another massive challenge here as the hosts are likely to go for a four-pronged pace attack once again, despite the absence of the injured Dale Steyn.

The Rahane conundrum

How will the Indian batsmen respond? Bowled out for 209 and 135 in Cape Town, India would be pondering over their batting line-up.

Today Kohli was asked if the team could be thinking of including Ajinkya Rahane, who averages 69.66 in South Africa, in the XI for the second Test. “It’s funny how things change in a matter of weeks, or just about five days!” Kohli responded. “Before the first Test no one thought that he should be in the eleven and now suddenly people are looking at the other option.”

“We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, and talk of the town and all those sort of things,” Kohli continued. “He (Rahane) is a quality player. He has done well in South Africa, in all conditions actually away from home. He has probably been our most consistent and solid player away from home. I explained the reasons why Rohit Sharma started ahead of him. I am not saying that Ajinkya cannot or will not start in this game. Possibilities are all open at the moment and we shall decide after practice.”

Opening change?

What about the opening combination of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, who failed to provide a solid base in both innings and played reckless shots? “As far as the opening combination goes, we will decide today at the end of practice what is it that we are going to go within this game,” Kohli said. “We might do something different also but there is definitely no need to panic.”

Kohli said the wicket seemed lively but not as green as the one in Cape Town. “It looks like a really lively pitch. It is exactly what we expected it to be and we actually wanted it to be that way so that both teams are into the contest provided they play some good cricket,” the captain said. “This pitch will again test us to play our best cricket and that is something that we are looking forward to do. We must not get surprised by the bounce here. We have to maintain composure when you get sudden change of bounce, which you experience in South Africa.”  

— Agencies, TNS  

Asked for pace, bounce: Faf

For South Africa, the wicket will please Vernon Philander, often unplayable in Cape Town, and Kagiso Rabada, the skilful young paceman. Morne Morkel will be the third seamer, and Chris Morris is likely to play in place of the injured Steyn. Since spin is never a factor here, there’s a remote possibility that South Africa may select a fifth seamer and leave out Keshav Maharaj. “The information from the groundsmen is that the grass on the wicket has been burnt from the heat over the last week. It was very hot,” South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said. “We’ve asked for pace and bounce so hopefully we will get that. It is the key thing.”

India at Centurion

India have played only one Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion, in 2010, losing by an innings and 25 runs. Details:

India: 136 (Tendulkar 36; M Morkel 5/0, Steyn 3/34) and 459 (Tendulkar 111*, Dhoni 90, Gambhir 80; Steyn 4/105)

South Africa: 620/4d (Kallis 201, Amla 140, de Villiers 129)

Centurion: SA’s stronghold

SuperSport Park is a South African stronghold: They’ve won 17  of 22 Tests there, losing only two, one each to Australia and England.

  • SA Played:     22
  • Won:               17
  • Lost:                 2
  • Drawn:             3


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