Deadline: October 10, 2019 at 9:30 AM IST
Venue: Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune
In the last Test at the venue, in 2017, a slow left-arm orthodox in Steve O’Keefe spun a web around the Indian batsmen, bringing them to the doorstep of defeat. That, to add more spice to the drama, was the last time India lost a Test at home. Ever since, they have won 10 consecutive matches in their own territory.
The pitch has a tinge of green, which is likely to fade away as the match progresses. If anything, it is a good news for the pacers, for seldom do they find grass in the hot subcontinent conditions. That said, the spinners won’t be out of action for long. South Africa would expect Keshav Maharaj to emulate what O’Keefe did two years ago.
India won’t tinker with their playing XI. The return of Rohit Sharma in a different role and a hungry Ravichandran Ashwin did wonders to the team.
Probable XI for India: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma
Senuran Muthusamy could not be effective with the ball, but he did prove that his batting skills best suit these conditions. On the other hand, Lungi Ngidi is more than likely to replace Dane Piedt, given the pitch report.
Probable XI for South Africa: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Senuran Muthusamy, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada
Players to watch out for
It’s been 5 Tests since Virat Kohli scored a hundred – a sight we don’t often see in cricket. However, he is a man of crisis. India will need him when the top order stumbles.
Dean Elgar’s positivity rubbed off on Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock at Visakhapatnam. A lot will ride on him if South Africa are to stay alive in the series. It was his innings that sent a reminder to everyone that India can be defeated at home if their spinners are taken to the cleaners.
Mohammad Shami does not need hard tracks to collect wickets. He finds reverse swing in any conditions – dry, humid, or rainy. The fans expected another five-for from Ashwin, but Shami grabbed the opportunity before the spinners hog the limelight.
Keshav Maharaj would admit that he wasn’t consistently good, that he could have done way better. That said, it was his first match in India. He will only get better from here.
Mayank Agarwal showed the importance of scoring heaps of runs in the Ranji Trophy year after year. There were no false shots or sign of weakness or lapse in concentration. The double-hundred was as flawless as you get.
India: Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn, Dane Piedt, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Senuran Muthusamy, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Heinrich Klaasen, Zubayr Hamza, Anrich Nortje