About the Match
There is tremendous excitement ahead of the second South Africa vs India test match after the first one proved to be one of the most enthralling ones to watch in a long time. South Africa won by a comfortable margin in the end but not before having their noses bloodied by India. No respite is expected from both teams that have made their intentions to win very clear.
It was no secret that South Africa wanted tailor made pitches for their assault on India and was prepared to risk being bowled out cheaply in the process as well. They would have, however, had their hearts in their mouth when Bhuvaneshwar Kumar began with three wickets in his first three overs and after being bowled out for 130 in the second inning.
Faf du Plessis conceded after the match that his team had planned to set a target of close to 350 for the Indians in the fourth inning, certainly more than the 209 they ended up setting.
Will the fact that the South Africans struggled against the Indian pace bowling affect the kind of pitch for the next game? It is highly unlikely and in fact, we expect the South Africans to double down on what worked for them.
Dale Steyn has been out injured but two more fast bowlers, Ngidi and Oliver, have been added to the squad. South Africa could decide to add Chris Morris in place of the injured Dale Steyn and simultaneously lengthen the batting and add another genuine fast bowler into the mix.
They could also add a batsman in place of Keshav Maharaj, who by the look of things, will not have much to do at the Centurion. Faf, though, like to have a spinner in the team and so we think Maharaj will keep his place.
While the South African bowlers led by Philander did an exceptional job, the South African batsmen would be under a little pressure. Only AB de Villiers looked like scoring runs at the time he was at the crease and it was his batting in the first inning that changed the momentum of the game.
Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar, and Aiden Markram with twin failures would be under some pressure to perform in the next test. Even players like Quinton de Kock and Faf DuPlessis know they have to do a better job in the middle now that South Africa seems committed to playing with six batsmen only.
The Indian team would have been distraught at their batting display in the first test after one of the best bowling displays from an Indian team abroad. They were kept in the hunt by Hardik Pandya’s brilliant 93 in the first inning and then roared back into contention after bowling out South Africa for just 130.
AT 30 for no loss in their chase, there is no doubt in our mind that Virat Kohli would have been pretty confident of chasing this total down.
Now, at the Centurion, plenty of questions await this Indian team.
The selection issues in front of them are not easy. Shikhar Dhawan has played just one match but looked most at sea against the rising delivery. With the in-form Lokesh Rahul waiting on the sidelines, Shikhar Dhawan may have to make way.
Ajinkya Rahane’s omission in place of Rohit Sharma raised a lot of eyebrows and although he did not have a good run in test matches last year, he is too good batsmen to be missing out when the team is struggling in difficult conditions.
He could play in place of Ravi Ashwin with Pandya playing as the fourth bowler.
Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav also make for compelling cases but changing the three fast bowlers who troubled the South Africans seems unlikely to us at the moment.
Virat Kohli is not one to shy away from making changes and he has yet to field an unchanged side in two consecutive test matches. He will also want to make the changes when the series is alive and not in a dead rubber if the team ends up losing the second test as well.
The Indians have been dominant with the bat when it comes to playing at home but are the likes of Saha and Ashwin god enough to provide consistent runs like they did in India? Wriddhiman Saha may be an excellent wicketkeeper but he must contribute with the bat as well, otherwise giving Parthiv Patel a go would not be a bad choice either.
All the right noises have been made by the Indian on this tour so far and they showed with their selection in the first test that they are prepared to gamble to win. Now, just a couple of batsmen need to strike form and we could see a thriller of a series being played out.
Pitch and Conditions
Talk before the series was about how Cape Town would be the slowest and offer the least bounce among all the surfaces that the Indians would play on. Centurion is likely to offer less seam movement than the first test but will definitely have more bounce and pace.
We think that could actually play into the hands of the Indians who are not as bad against the short ball as everyone assumes. The pitch could also break up and offer inconsistent bounce and some spin later into the match. Whether both teams risk playing a spinner for that eventuality remains to be seen.
South Africa won the first test with ease and will be the clear favorites going into the second test as well. They have never lost a test series to India in South Africa and will see this test as the perfect opportunity to wrap up another series victory. The two teams have played once at the Centurion, which the South African team won by an inning and 25 runs.
We are, however, feeling optimistic that the Indian batsmen will acclimatize well to the bounce and actually give their bowlers a shot at winning them the match.
We recommend backing India for a historic win.
India to win