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Preview, 2nd Test: India look to stay afloat against South Africa

By Unnikrishnan
India will have a tough task against SA

Centurion, January 12: Outplayed in the opening Test at Cape Town, India will have to resolve a few selection puzzles and respond better to the sharp bounce when they face South Africa in second Test, starting here on Saturday (January 13).

India's record of nine consecutive series victories will be on the line after the hosts took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series registering a 72-run win in the first Test.

On Thursday (January 11), 48 hours before the first ball is bowled, India held an intense practice session at Supersport Park, which lasted just under four hours.

The usual suspects went about their job in predictable manner. Cheteshwar Pujara practiced catching at first slip; Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma batted in tandem at nets, while Ajinkya Rahane stood a mute spectator for a major part.

He did face some throw-downs from assistant coach Sanjay Bangar, as did Shikhar Dhawan, but neither of them faced any real fast bowling.

KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Pujara batted in adjacent nets, followed by Kohli and Rohit, and then Hardik Pandya and Wriddhiman Saha, pointing to another five-batsmen line-up.

Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul

Rahul for Dhawan?

Overall, Dhawan averages 43.72 overseas in 19 Tests, a touch more than his career average of 42.62 (29 matches).

But take into consideration his record in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa and this comes down considerably to 27.81 (11 Tests).

In South Africa, this plummets further to 18 in three Tests without a single half-century. His highest is 29 on the 2013-14 tour.

Rahul, in comparison, allows for more solidity at the top given that he is comparatively a better technically-equipped batsman.

Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane will vie for a spot in the middle order

The Rohit-Rahane puzzle

The Rohit-Rahane conundrum isn't as simple. The Indian skipper spelled out that this particular selection was based on form.

Despite Rohit's twin failures - 11 and 10 - in Cape Town, it doesn't make any sense for the think-tank to reverse this decision after just one match.

Hardik Pandya is a shoe-in after his previous showing, and it only leaves Kohli with four spots to play with.

Pitch at the Supersport Park could offer generous bounce

This is where the pitch comes in. On Thursday, the track seemed a hard and bouncy one with only a little sprinkling of green grass, quite unlike the one at Newlands.

There is a school of thought that a track replicating the one in the first Test could have seen India dropping the spinner altogether.

Instead, the good bounce and lack of lateral movement might just play well for batsmen on both sides. It would surely bring in the spinner as the match progresses.

As such, it remains to be seen if Kohli changes his pace combination. On Thursday, Umesh Yadav batted and bowled in the nets with vigour.

Ishant Sharma, having recovered from illness, looked sharp as well. But could again lose out to the one-match old Jasprit Bumrah.

In comparison to the pensive Indian camp, South Africa seemed at ease as they went about practicing for the second Test.

The hosts' only selection issue is in finding an apt replacement for the injured Dale Steyn. Youngster Lungi Ngidi is a contender to make his Test debut on home-soil, allowing the Proteas to replicate the four-man pace attack from the previous game.

Even so, all-rounder Chris Morris is more likely to get the nod.

Teams (from): India: Virat Kohli (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Parthiv Patel.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (Capt), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyne, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier.

Live: Sony TEN1 from 1.30 pm onwards

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    Story first published: Friday, January 12, 2018, 15:37 [IST]
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