India vs South Africa, 2nd Test: Preview - Pune pitch in focus as visitors hope to level the series

India vs South Africa, 2nd Test: Preview – Pune pitch in focus as visitors hope to level the series

India are unlikely to make any changes to their playing XI.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli. (Photo Source: Twitter)

105 & 107. These were India’s scores when they last played a Test match in Pune which didn’t last even three full days. The Virat Kohli-led side was rattled by Australia’s novice spinner Steve O’Keefe who returned with 12 wickets in the game. Team India has moved on since then and hasn’t lost a Test at home in 10 matches (7 wins and 3 draws). The surface in Pune then was rated poor by the ICC and no wonder Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri were keenly looking at the 22-yard strip.

The curator hasn’t got the ideal preparation time with rain constantly coming down heavily in Pune in the entire week leading up to the game. The pitch has been under the covers for the most part and all eyes will be on it when the action gets underway on Thursday morning. In any case, India shouldn’t be worried as they have all the bases covered.

The Vizag Test was a clear reflection of their strengths at home and despite being pushed to the corner with South Africa scoring more than 400 runs in the first innings, they managed to comprehensively win the match. They are the clear favourites to seal the series here itself and create a world record of 11 consecutive Test series wins at home.

Though all is not well in South Africa’s dressing room. They have plenty of problems to address and with a quick turn around between the two Tests, it is unlikely they will make a plethora of changes. Faf du Plessis admitted that they didn’t have time to change things around and a lot of hard work was done before the series and it will only about trusting the players.

This makes it clear that at least the batting line-up will remain the same. The visitors’ main issue has been picking 20 wickets which the Proteas skipper stressed in the pre-match presser which might be an indication of the bowling changes they might ring in.

But irrespective of the changes they make, can South Africa beat India is the big question. No doubt the fighting spirit has gone nowhere but that wasn’t enough in Vizag as they crumbled in their second essay. A much-better show in all the departments is expected from them in order to make a comeback in the series.

Team Combinations

India

Virat Kohli, more or less, cleared in the press conference that they will field the same XI. He highlighted how important Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s batting is down the order (along with their spin bowling at home) when asked if Kuldeep Yadav was playing. And of course, there is no question of benching either Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Batting is well sorted too with Rohit Sharma coming good at the top of the order.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami.

South Africa

South Africa is unlikely to tinker with their batting line-up which means Theunis de Bruyn is set to get another chance to bat at number three. Du Plessis has backed his deputy Temba Bavuma to come good and despite the talks of the former batting a bit low, he is likely to stay at five.

As far as the bowling department is concerned, Dane Piedt looks the likeliest candidate to sit out. He scored a fighting half-century in the second innings at Vizag but bowling is his primary vocation. He picked only a solitary wicket in the first Test conceding 209 runs in 36 overs.

Batting deep is also one of the major aspects these days due to which Vernon Philander also looks set to retain his place. Either Lungi Ngidi or Anrich Nortje will replace Piedt and going by the experience, the former is expected to take the field who can also extract reverse swing later in the game.

Probable XI: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (C), Quinton de Kock (WK), Senuran Muthusamy, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi.

Focus will be on

Cheteshwar Pujara (India)

Cheteshwar Pujara is surprisingly going through a rough patch since the highs of the Australia tour. 6, 27, 2, 25, 6 and 81 are his scores in the last six innings and his first innings failures are more glaring. India’s number three is yet to cross the double-figure mark in the first innings in the previous three Tests. Even Pujara himself must have realised the same and though there is nothing much to worry, the pressure will be slowly increasing on him.

A good outing in Pune should make him feel good and it is crucial for India that Pujara stays confident. A good home season will keep him in good space ahead of the tough New Zealand tour in January next year.

Temba Bavuma (South Africa)

Temba Bavuma, South Africa’s vice-captain, has been given an added responsibility of batting at number four and he is certainly feeling the heat. He is one of the experienced players in the team and should get back to scoring runs sooner rather than later. Bavuma was unlucky in Vizag in both the innings but another failure in Pune will raise more eyebrows and South Africa’s dynamo should click with the bat.

Head to Head

Overall

Matches – 37 | India won – 12 | South Africa won – 15 | Draw – 10

In India

Matches – 17 | India won – 9 | South Africa won – 5 | Draw – 3

Stat Attack

50 – Virat Kohli will play his 50th Test as captain in Pune. He has won 29 matches while at the helm out of 49 games.

99 – Keshav Maharaj is just one wicket away from becoming the fifth South Africa spinner to pick 100 scalps in Test cricket.

Broadcast Details

TV – Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD

Online– Hotstar

Match Timings – 9:30 local time & IST (4:00 AM GMT)