India is arguably the toughest place to tour, at least in this decade. Most teams have experienced that first hand. In fact, since the start of 2010, India have lost only four Test matches at home – one against South Africa (2010), two against England (both 2012 when they lost their only series in this decade at home) and one against Australia (2017). This stat is enough to prove beating India in India is not easy. Forget a Test series, winning a Test match is really tough as well.
South Africa have found that twice in four years. They could be excused for their last trip when they played on rank turners but this time, there’s no hiding. None of the two venues have turned square. Even on days four and five, there has been enough assistance for the pacers. In fact, the conditions in Pune, especially on the first two days, resembled the ones they get in South Africa, not entirely, but there was enough assistance for the fast bowlers.
However, barring Kagiso Rabada to an extent, none of the South African bowlers could utilize the conditions. The top order has been under pressure as well. They failed twice in Pune and it was not against spin. The Indian pacers wreaked havoc and ran through the Proteas top order twice. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin went about business as usual too. It was South Africa’s lower order that delayed the inevitable in both innings. Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander were the mainstays with the bat lower down the order.
Nothing has gone right for the visitors. Maharaj who is their lead spinner and also their fourth-highest run-getter in this series has been ruled out due to a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Aiden Markram has hurt his wrist after he smashed a solid object owing to his disappointing performances. Skipper Faf du Plessis spoke about Lungi Ngidi’s fitness in the last game and was hopeful about his inclusion. Hence, there will be quite a few changes for the Proteas.
On the other hand, India don’t have too much to worry about. Everything seems to be clicking for them. They played five bowlers in the last game and Umesh Yadav justified his inclusion with six wickets across two innings. With the bat, they just kept batting on and on and on and the charge was led by Mayank Agarwal and skipper Virat Kohli who notched up his career-best Test score.
There might be an odd change as the pitch in Ranchi may not assist the seamers as much as it did in Pune. Hence, Kuldeep Yadav might get a game or if India decide to go back to six batsmen, Hanuma Vihari will slot back in.
Dean Elgar was dismissed by Ashwin once again in the second innings of the second Test. That became the sixth time the Tamil Nadu offie scalped the South African opener. Elgar has been South Africa’s best batsman so far and hence, his battle against Ashwin will once again be a defining one. Kagiso Rabada got Rohit Sharma out for the fourth time in Test cricket in the last game. That battle will once again be an intriguing one with the new ball.
India: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Zubayr Hamza, Senuran Muthusamy, Dane Piedt, Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada
There’s absolutely no doubt that India will be overwhelming favourites to make it 3-0 in Ranchi and pick up another 40 World Test Championship points. There has been only one Test played at this venue before. It came during the riveting India-Australia series in 2017 and that Test match ended in a draw. Generally, spinners get assistance from the pitch and hence, this may be the track will turn. Hence, South Africa will be under the pump once again. It will take a herculean effort from them if they are to topple India in this third and final Test match.