Chennai, Mar 25: A keen contest is on the cards as two upbeat teams -- India, buoyed by its impressive performance Down Under, and South Africa, fresh from its series win against Bangladesh, a not too hot oppositiion -- clash in the first of the three-Test Future Cup series beginning here tomorrow.
Unlike India's tour of Australia, which witnessed a lot of acrimony, the present series would be more a battle of cricket than nerves, as India, banking on its home advantage, holds all the aces. It would be battle between South African pace attack and the Indian batting flair and acclimatisation would be the key for the Proteas, if they are to turn the tables on India.
Considering that they were really not tested by Bangladesh early this month, the absence of any warm up match, has really hit the Proteas hard in its preparations for the test series, especially against a team like India, which was described as the ''Final Frontier,'' by the irrepressible Aussie Steve Waugh.
In the wake of sledging bouts in the Aussie tour, both Indian skipper Anil Kumble and his South African counterpart Greame Smith have ensured that the three test series would be remembered only for good cricket.
''It will be only a battle of cricket, not a battle of nerves,'' Smith said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Kumble said ''I would like the series to be remembered only for good cricket.'' The assurance by both captains assumes significance in the wake of ICC's appeal to the players of all countries not to indulge in sledging on the field.
There is good news for the cricket afficiandos from the weather front, which has been posing a threat to the contest in the wake of formation of a low pressure area yesterday. Met officials said that the low pressure over the Gulf of Mannar, which promised more rains, has weakened, and the city would have generally clear skies.
The mood in the Indian camp is buoyant, especially after taming the Aussies in their own den by winning the tri-series.
The absence of Ishant Sharma, the find of the Aussie series, and Zaheer Khan due to injuries, meant that the new ball attack would be shared by Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth and R P Singh.
Considering that the wicket would be a traditional Chepauk pitch, with a little bit of bounce early and gradually assist spinners from day three, Kumble in all probability was exepected to field two spinners and go in for two seamers with seven batsmen.
However, the final eleven was expected to be announced after analysing the conditions tomorrow morning.
For the Proteas, playing a test match in this historic ground for the first time, it would be a test of character as they would be up against quality spin attack.
But the key for the visitors would be the potent pace attack that comprises of Makhaya Nitni and Steyn, the highest wicket taker in the recent Bangladesh tour. Jacques Kallis and Morne Morkel would the playing the supporting role with either one of the two spinners Paul Harris or Robin Peterson, likely to figure in the final XI.
he Teams: India (from): Anil Kumble (capt), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V V S Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, S Sreesanth, R P Singh, Murali Kartik. Back up Players: Piyush Chawla and Dinesh Kartik.
South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (Capt), Neil Mckenzie, Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, J P Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Mondeki Zondeki, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn.
Umpires: Tony Hill, Asad Rauf Third Umpire: A M Saheba.
Fourth Umpire: S K Tarapore Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Hours of Play: 0930 hrs to 1130 hrs; 1210 hrs to 1410 hrs, 1430 hrs to 1630 hrs.