Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
India vs South Africa | Saturday 14 November | M Chinnaswamy Stadium | Bangalore | 05:30
When we talk about the first Test match between India and South Africa in Mohali, the topic of conversation generally turns to the pitch. Many South Africans watching at home were appalled by the condition of the wicket, however, after plastering India in the T20s and convincingly winning the ODI segment of the series; the South Africans should’ve expected something like this – spin-friendly wickets that the likes of Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja would excel on.
After all, when India last landed in South Africa in 2013, they were greeted by unfamiliar conditions. The wicket was quick at the Wanderers and the ball regularly bounced up to shoulder and head height. India, who never had the benefit of a warm-up game, conceded 358 runs that afternoon while their batsmen were only able to amass 217, MS Dhoni top scoring with 65. Nothing was made of the conditions that day, India went on to lose the ODI segment of that series 2-0. They would return to the Wanderers for the first Test in which they gave a much better account of themselves, drawing the match after South Africa looked on course for a surprise victory.
Looking at the Mohali wicket, India were given a track prepared to the extreme end of what would normally be considered home ground advantage. What will be more concerning though, is the manner in which South African wickets fell. Poor shot selection accounted for the majority of the wickets that fell throughout the three days of play that we witnessed in Mohali – from both South African and Indian batsmen. Both teams were perhaps guilty of playing the conditions rather than playing each ball on merit.
Dean Elgar, a First-Class part-time spinner at best, returned career-best figures of 4-22 on a day 1. That’s right, Dean Elgar, hardly someone who strikes fear into the hearts of top Test batsmen. He trapped Pujara with a delivery that never really spun at all that instead came in with the angle. Pujara, a world-class Test batsman simply played down the wrong line and was struck on the pad. Elgar would go on to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane who looked to smash a flighted delivery through the covers only edge to Amla in the slips. He then got Wriddhiman Saha with his very next delivery – admittedly this was gripped on the surface and spun sharply, catching the outside edge with Hashim Amla diving forward to take a good catch at first slip. His fourth wicket came when Amit Mishra came down the track to the pitch of the ball looking to smash it over long on, but could only find Dale Steyn at a deepish mid-on. Aside from the Saha dismissal, all of Elgar’s wickets on day one came as a result of poor shot selection from the Indian batsmen.
It was to be the same when the South Africans came in to bat, our top-order looked mortified every time Mishra, Ashwin or Jadeja would get even the slightest turn. The lack of composure shown by the likes of Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla will concern the South African management.
Now that we’ve had our obligatory say on the Mohali pitch, let’s look forward to the second Test.
To Win Match
South Africa 9/4
The Indians will be more relieved than anything after winning the first of the four-match Test series, although they didn’t make it easy for themselves. Winning the toss, Virat Kohli was always going to bat first. He’d have expected his top and middle order to at least lay a platform for the lower order to reach 300 in the first innings, knowing that the South Africans would have to bat last on a deteriorating wicket. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot, capitulating to 201 all out. Only Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravi Jadeja could score more than 30.
In response, the South Africans looked completely devoid of composure. Jadeja and Ashwin tore through the order with only Elgar, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla offering any sort of resistance to the onslaught of spin thrown at the Proteas. The trend continued in South Africa’s second innings, and they were eventually skittled for 109.
India’s spinners looked pumped, Ravi Ashwin in particular, giving Dean Elgar a bit of a send-off after he was caught trying to slog-sweep the off-spinner only to be caught by Jadeja. Later on in the press conference, Ashwin would go on to say “He’s played that shot a lot in Johannesburg. I watched his videos on YouTube. I made it a point to tell him that it’s not Johannesburg.”
India will be looking for a little more from their batsmen as they head into the second Test. Only Vijay and Pujara managed scores in excess of 50 throughout the two innings. They know that they will need to improve if they’re going to win in Bangalore.
I don’t see Shikhar Dhawan retaining his place in the starting XI come Saturday morning. The opener’s woeful run with the bat continued as he was dismissed for a pair in the first Test. Expect Rohit Sharma to crack the nod ahead of him after a strong showing in the limited overs segments of the tour.
The Proteas will need a markedly improved performance with the bat if they are to stand any chance of leveling the four-match series. While a good bowling performance by Dean Elgar in the first innings helped the South Africans restrict the Indian first innings total, they will be well aware that the part-timer won’t have the same sort of success in Bangalore.
Hashim Amla, arguably one of the best players of spin in the world, is in horrible form at the moment. He’ll need to be at his best if South Africa are to be more competitive this time around. There were glimpses of his class in the first innings of the last test where he managed a score of 43. The soft-spoken top-order batsman will know that he needs to kick on and anchor the innings after getting a start, especially if the iffy looking opening partnership of Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl fails.
There is some encouraging news on the injury front for the South Africans. JP Duminy is available for selection after recovering from a hand injury while Dale Steyn faces a late fitness test to establish whether or not he has recovered from a groin strain picked up in Mohali. Duminy may well come in for Dane Villas who failed miserably with the bat in Mohali. The implications of this change will mean that AB de Villiers will have to keep wicket – something he has done in the past for the Test team.
The M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore has been hosting test matches since November 1974, when India hosted a West Indies team that included debutants Gordon Greenidge and Viv Richards. The pitch isn’t usually typical of what you’d expect of a wicket in India. While there is some turn on offer, it’s generally favoured the quicks more, offering plenty of pace and bounce. However, that being said, you can bet your bottom Dollar that the wicket will be doctored to suit the Indians’ spin-heavy attack while negating the likes of Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn (if fit) and Kagiso Rabada.
Expect plenty of rain delays over the course of the match with local weather services predicting heavy showers from Sunday through to Wednesday.
Verdict: Murali Vijay Top India First Innings Batsman at 7/2
Vijay looks to be in good touch after the first Test scoring 75 in the first innings while wickets tumbled all around him. He looks good value at 7/2 to repeat the feat on a wicket he will be all too familiar with.
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