So, with the 3rd Test at Ranchi to get started ,can a battered and bruised South Africa make the Indians sweat somewhat in the last match of a test series which has been woefully one sided ? Well, things does not look too bright for them with two of their test regulars Markram and Maharaj now out of the test with injuries ,which means they will probably open with Debruyn ,who himself looked set to be replaced by Zubayr Hamza ,who should have featured in the series earlier, but now is going to replace Markram in 3rd test. Also left arm spinner George Linde may replace injured Maharaj in this game . With Lungi Ngidi still building up on his fragile frame to last 5 days of a test (as was explained by Duplessis in the post match talk in 2nd test), Anrich Nortze will probably continue to partner Rabada and Philander in a subdued Protea pace attack. With the batting getting furthered weakened due to Markram’s self inflicted injury, skipper Faf Duplessis , their most experienced batsman should bat at 3 as he also looked in better form than most batters but have not got a big score and inexplicably batted at a lower spot . Bavuma , who has been playing tests for a while now ,also needs to deliver more often while the elegant Decock needs to reproduce his 1st test form on a more regular basis. Also he needs to improve his test keeping on Indian pitches as he has looked an average keeper in this test series. Summing up, the Proteas need to raise their levels in all the departments to make India at least work harder, leave alone winning the test.
India on other hand, has looked a well settled team ,firing on all cylinders but it must be said that they were hardly challenged by South Africa in this series ,except for a while in the 1st test. The batting looks settled with Rohit, Mayank, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane being their core. Saha was brilliant in his keeping at Pune and has got great memories of the last test vs Australia at Ranchi when he scored a match changing 100 to put India in a winning position with Pujara. Jadeja’s new found confidence in batting has enabled India to sacrifice the 6th batter and go with 5 bowlers. With Ranchi pitch known to help spin one feels that a slightly subdued Ishant may have to make way for Shahbaz Nadeem who has been added to the team after Kuldeep has complained of a sore shoulder. Hence Jadeja, Ashwin and Nadeem would make up the spin trio as Shami and probably Umesh ( after his 6 wicket haul at Pune) play as the two pacers.
With the Ranchi pitch ,likely to aid spin, it’s all the more important for Duplessis to win the toss at least in this test to keep South Africa longer in the game. The Proteas were very lucky in this series with the playing conditions as very sporting pitches were offered in Vizag and Pune unlike in past tours where pitches used to turn square from 1st morning. The Pune pitch in fact had a South African tinge to it with good pace ,bounce and carry.
However the crowd attendance was not good in this test series so far which has a lot to do with South Africa’s lack of resilience and below average performance . The Indian cricket fans wants a highly competitive test series to sustain interest in the game, and hence they also want South Africa to challenge India more. It was ironical ,that Kohli’s superb 254 was scored in an empty stadium. Test cricket has already started to suffer in popularity in India due to T20 revolution . Hence if the overseas teams show below par efforts, then it’s natural that people will not waste time and money to watch less competitive games where the results are pretty obvious.
Lets hope that South Africa fires themselves up to play a competitive test match at Ranchi and strongly challenge the high flying Indians.