Pacer-Friendly Pitch to be on Offer in Centurion Test

Rohit Sharma did not show enough staying power at Newlands Cape Town. Ashley Vlotman  Getty Images

Centurion, Jan 13 South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and opted to bat against India in the second Test beginning here today.

In terms of batsmen, it will up to the duo of AB de Villiers and du Plessis to carry on the batting, if the Proteas' top-order collapse early.

Whoever is selected in the playing XI, India has to perform this time on what is expected to be another lively pitch at Supersport Park, Centurion. "Now the South Africans must be anxious about the way they got out in the second innings and the way our bowlers bowled there", he said.

I still recall bumping into him after the press conferences were over at the end of the Kingsmead Test. That is the true nature of the wicket here at SuperSport Park. The hosts have not lost at this venue since 2014. Five good days, of course, if India give South Africa a run for their money in their own backyard.

Faf du Plessis' side, meanwhile, have now found an in-form bower in Vernon Philander, who bagged nine wickets in the first Test, including a six-wicket haul. Keshav Maharaj will be the lone spinner in the team. He was one of India's successes on their last overseas leg of Test cricket, and the main reason for his consistency in varying foreign conditions was that that he left a lot of balls outside the off stump.

Vernon Philander looked at times unplayable in Cape Town, while the new leading bowler in Test cricket, Kagiso Rabada, brings plenty of pace, fire and skill.

Some of them played reckless shots - which would have worked on a slow pitch - in the first Test and coming into the second game, they would have got a measure of the task ahead.

Shikhar Dhawan was found waiting while facing the short stuff from South Africa. Gianluigi Guercia  AFP
Shikhar Dhawan was found waiting while facing the short stuff from South Africa. Gianluigi Guercia AFP

On a positive side, the Indian team has always shown that extra aggression under Virat Kohli's captaincy and if that aggression is displayed again here, I must say India can send jitter waves to the South African dressing room. Their attitude of dominating the bowlers with a flurry of strokes will not work.

All they need to do is just go about things naturally and not complicate.

Calls for the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane, known for his quiet approach, instead of fellow Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma have grown over the few days. On the other hand, Shikar Dhawan was found wanting in both the innings and might be replaced with young KL Rahul. He also expressed surprise that Murali Vijay had abandoned his normal method of leaving the balls pitched outside the off in the opening Test and paid the penalty. The batsmen were troubled by pace and movement in Newlands.

Luck did not go India's way in the first match, despite fighting efforts from the bowlers, including the pace quartret of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya.

Brief scores: South Africa 1st innings: 78 for no loss in 27 overs (Aiden Markram batting 51, Dean Elgar batting 26).

Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was ruled out with a hamstring strain and replaced by Parthiv Patel, while the other change saw opener KL Rahul come in for Shikhar Dhawan.


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