India vs South Africa: Third Test Preview

Written by Jason Dewey for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

India vs South Africa | 25 - 30 November | Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium | Nagpur

After a fairly straight-forward win in Mohali and a promising start in in Begaluru, India’s momentum has been scuppered somewhat by the torrential rain that ended any hopes of a result in the second Test.

The Proteas looked to be in deep trouble after day one of the second test at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium when the heavens opened, derailing any chance India had of taking a 2-0 series lead.

To Win Match
India 9/20
Draw 22/10
South Africa 28/10

The Indians will be encouraged by news coming out of the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, with several Indian newspapers speaking of a dry, turning wicket. Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been in supreme form, accounting for 25 of the 30 wickets that the visitors have lost in the last two Tests.

The two off spinners, along with Amit Mishra, will feel relatively relaxed heading into the the third Test. They will know full well that the pressure is on the visiting batsmen to put the pressure back on the Indian bowling.

With that being said, however, India’s batsmen haven’t looked particularly good in the first two Tests either. Only Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Jadeja were able to score more than 30 in an innings during the first Test, while Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed for a pair. The likes of Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will all have to step up to the plate if India are going to post the sort of total that will take the South Africans out of the game completely.

The Indian starting XI shouldn’t differ too much – if at all – to the one that that was selected for the second Test in Bangalore. Dhawan will have done just enough with the bat, scoring 45 off of just 62 balls before the rain started falling, to secure his place in the team.

The only other selection headache the Indian management will face will be who cracks the nod between Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. Both quicks have struggled for consistency throughout their careers. One feels that Yadav might be favored ahead of Aaron due to his ability to produce a bit of reverse swing – of which there should be plenty in Nagpur this week.

South Africa
While the South African bowling hasn’t been too bad, it’s their batting that has let them down in the first two Test matches with only AB de Villiers and Dean Elgar have looked remotely comfortable with the barrage of spin that’s been thrown their way.

The Proteas, who have for so long been the best in the world at building large totals around players like Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and de Villiers, have only managed a top score of 214 in this series. That score was preceded by 184 and 109 in the first match in Mohali.

There are still question marks around a number of the South African players – none more so than Dane Vilas. While the wicketkeeper / batsman hasn’t fared badly behind the stumps in the first two Tests, he has looked well out of his depth with the bat. He’s looked a bundle of nerves every time he’s walked out into the middle, as any Test wicketkeeper would walking in at 104-5, 45-5 or 120-5. When big partnerships and level-headedness were needed, Vilas would go on the attack, taking on the likes of Mishra, Jadeja and Ashwin – failing miserably every time.

There are also worries surrounding the form of du Plessis and Amla who have both had poor starts to this series. Du Plessis – coming off the back of outstanding ODI and T20 performances against India – has managed only 1 run in three innings, twice falling to Ashwin and once to Jadeja. Amla has also struggled against the Indian spinners and hasn’t managed to get himself out of the lean run of form he’s found himself in over the last few months.

The Protea skipper will be looking to replicate the form that propelled him to world stardom in 2010 when he scored an undefeated 253 the last time the South Africa played India at the Vidarbha Stadium in Nagpur in 2010. The visitors would go on win the match by an innings and six runs with Dale Steyn claiming ten wickets in total.

South Africa’s cause isn’t helped by injuries to Vernon Philander (ankle) and Steyn (groin) with the former having been ruled out for the remainder of the tour. Steyn will likely face a late fitness test to gauge whether or not he will play any part in the third Test. Kyle Abbott and Marchant de Lange have both flown out to India to provide cover for the injuries.

Simon Harmer will likely have an integral role to play in this Test along with Imran Tahir. The two are going to get a lot of assistance from the Nagpur deck and will need to transfer the pressure back onto the Indian batsmen. Dane Piedt still remains with the squad, however, with Dean Elgar providing the third spin option, I doubt that the Cobras’ spinner will get a look in for the third Test.

The Venue
Several reports coming out of India suggest that the wicket at the Vidarbha Cricket Stadium in Nagpur will be bone dry – playing perfectly into the hands of the hosts who will employ a spin-heavy attack. While it won’t be anything the like surface in Mohali, the Proteas’ top order are still going to have to get on top of Jadeja, Ashwin and Mishra on a deck that will turn sharply from day one.

The visitors will be sweating on the fitness of premier quick, Dale Steyn, especially as reports have also suggested that there will be a bit of reverse swing on offer. We should get a full five days’ worth of play in with local weather services predicting hot, but dry weather for the duration of the match.

Verdict: Hashim Amla – Top South African First Innings Batsman 7/2
The South African skipper has struggled for form in the last few months, however, he’s more than capable of turning it around. He’ll have fond memories of this ground, having scored 253* here in 2010. Back him to get back in amongst the runs at 7/2.

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