“There will be no let-off in intensity,” Virat Kohli said in Pune after winning the second Test and the three-match series. With 40 points in the Test championship on offer, it is clear that India will leave no stone unturned to whitewash South Africa in Ranchi. But do the visitors have it in them to make India even sweat for the victory?
After scoring 431 in the first innings in Visakhapatnam, South Africa’s batsmen have completely struggled. They have managed 191, 275 and 189 in the next three innings since then and clearly, there are a lot of issues in their top-order. The bowling has not been up to the mark either. They have picked only 16 wickets so far in the series despite getting the conditions similar to back home in Pune.
Add to it, injuries to Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram (self-inflicted one) who have been ruled out of the final Test of the tour. Faf du Plessis has stood like a rock at times in the middle and so did Dean Elgar. But no runs were on offer from the other end. All said and done, South Africa will be desperate to put up at least some fight in Ranchi before taking the flight back home as India look overwhelming favourites.
Whatever the hosts do, especially at home, turns into gold. They picked an extra bowler in Umesh Yadav at Hanuma Vihari’s expense in Pune and he picked six wickets. Looking at the dry surface in Ranchi, Kuldeep Yadav might play for the first time since picking a five-wicket haul in Sydney in January this year. He was seen sweating it out in the nets both with the bat and ball on Thursday.
But who will make way for him if the chinaman is indeed playing? Umesh is unlikely to be benched after a sizzling performance in Pune. The management might ponder resting one of Ishant Sharma or Mohammed Shami with the amount of cricket to be played in the near future.
There is no reason for the home side to change their batting order. The top 5 of the line-up look sorted with either Ravindra Jadeja or Wriddhiman Saha walking in at six depending upon the situation. The former was preferred in Pune as they were sitting pretty. Jadeja and Ashwin remain untouched at home thanks to their exceptional spin bowling. Umesh Yadav looks set to play and the way Kuldeep trained on Thursday, even he might play. But the final decision lies with the management.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravi Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
There is no specialist opener in South Africa’s squad at the moment with Aiden Markram injured and ruled out. Temba Bavuma who has struggled to convert his starts might be pushed up the order to open the innings. Theunis de Bruyn’s place is also under threat after repeated failures as Zubayr Hamza looks likely to replace him. Heinrich Klaasen might get a game as well with Dane Piedt returning as Maharaj is also injured.
Geoge Linde is another option the visitors have in the spin department. Lungi Ngidi is close to full fitness it seems and he is likely to play ahead of Anrich Nortje.
Probable XI: Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Zubayr Hamza/Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis (C), Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock (WK), Vernon Philander, Senuran Muthusamy, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje/Lungi Ngidi.
Focus will be on
Rohit Sharma (India)
Rohit Sharma has struggled for consistency in Test matches. After lighting up his debut Test as an opener, he got out cheaply in Pune. Rohit will have to be wary of not going into the shell again and needs to be consistent. It is very important from India’s perspective that he stays confident before New Zealand. And he has three Test matches to stay on top gear. Will Rohit be able to notch up a few more big score? Only time will tell.
Kagiso Rabada (South Africa)
Rabada bowled his hearts out in Pune Test. But only for little reward. He even had a spat with De Kock as India were piling on the runs. South Africa should be careful with their premier fast bowler and take care of his workload. Rabada, on the other hand, also be willing to inspire a comeback for his team by striking early with the ball.
Head to Head
Matches – 38 | India won – 13 | South Africa won – 15 | Draw – 10
Matches – 18 | India won – 10 | South Africa won – 5 | Draw – 3
98 – Rohit Sharma is only 98 away from 2000 runs in his Test career.
TV – Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD
Match Timings – 9:30 local time & IST (4:00 AM GMT)
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