India vs South Africa: Fourth Test Preview

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

India vs South Africa | 3 December - 7 December | Feroz Shar Kotla | New Delhi | 05:00

One gets the feeling that after South Africa’s dominant performances in the T20 and ODI segments of this bi-lateral series, the BCCI felt as though they needed to secure the Test series at the very least. This has resulted in two farcical Tests that have been marred by unplayable decks.

Speaking in my preview for the second Test – which was rained out in the end – I mentioned that the Proteas would need to adapt to conditions in India better. However, the Nagpur wicket was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in Test Cricket.

We can only hope that the wicket in New Delhi will do justice to fans as well as Test Cricket. Nobody wants to see Test Match end before the third day is over – it’s a poor advert for the game and if this sort of thing continues, it will simply drive another nail into the coffin of the purest form of the sport.

With my rant over, we can finally look ahead to the fourth and final Test in Delhi, calling a winner will depend entirely on whether or not we see the same sort of conditions we saw in Nagpur, so let's get to it!

To Win Match
India 15/20
Draw 28/10
South Africa 3/1

For the Indians, the series victory will be a bittersweet pill to swallow. On one hand, they’ve managed to end South Africa’s remarkable away Test record while also incurring the wrath of the international cricket community for preparing almost unplayable wickets.

There’s nothing wrong with providing surfaces that assist the home team, however, when your own batsmen – some of the best players of spin in the world – are struggling to deal with the likes of Dean Elgar and Simon Harmer, you know that something’s wrong.

You still can’t take anything away from the two stars of the Indian team in this series; Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja. The two off-spinners have absolutely demolished the South African line-up taking 32 of the 40 South African wickets that have fallen in the two games in which results were achieved. This is a staggering number, but it’s one that perhaps exaggerates how well the pair have bowled. They’ve managed to hit the right sort of areas more consistently than their South African counterparts and allowed the surfaces to do the rest.

India’s batsmen have also struggled to come to terms with the pitches prepared during the series with only Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara looking comfortable at any point thus far. Even the indomitable Virat Kohli has struggled to come to terms with the way that the surfaces have behaved. While Ashwin, Jadeja and Amit Mishra will be hoping for more of the same in Delhi; Shikhar Dhawan will be praying for a wicket that he score on. The opener has struggled to put together any innings of substance throughout the entirety of the bi-lateral series.

Looking ahead to the final Test, I don’t think that the Indian management will look to make too many changes to the team. I think they’ll give Dhawan one final crack in this series before he’s dropped, while it wouldn’t make sense to tinker with a bowling unit that has completely and utterly decimated everything in its path during the tour.

South Africa

A disastrous first innings capitulation in Nagpur effectively put to bed any chances that South Africa had of leveling the series. And with the series goes South Africa’s remarkable nine-year unbeaten record on the road.

If Hashim Amla and his men are going to win the fourth and final Test in New Delhi, they’re going to need better performances from the likes of Simon Harmer and Imran Tahir. The two front-line spinners have been amongst the wickets, however, they’ve also allowed the Indian batsmen to score relatively freely by consistently hitting the wrong areas of the pitch – or not hitting it at all. They will have to be more accurate if South Africa are to have any chance of winning the dead rubber in the Indian capital.

The visitors have also been unlucky when it’s come to injuries. Neither Dale Steyn nor Vernon Philander have featured since the first test after Steyn reported discomfort in his groin and Philander went over on his ankle during a warm-up.  Morne Morkel has since stepped up and his performance in the third Test proved just how valuable of a player he is to South Africa.

His regular back of a length approach was replaced by slow cutters in the second innings which bamboozled the Indian batsmen. He ended up bagging six wickets in the game and was by far the pick of the South African bowlers. Whether or not Dale Steyn will have recovered from his groin strain in time to take the field against India on Thursday remains to be seen.

While Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, and Faf du Plessis have played a few decent innings between them, I’ve been most impressed with Dean Elgar. While his scores haven’t been the best – a couple of 30s here and there – it’s the way the he’s applied himself on these sorts of surfaces. He’s worked hard and he’s batted ugly in horrible conditions and should be one of the first names on the team sheet for the first Test against England later this month.

If the Proteas are going to salvage some pride and win the fourth and final Test, they’re going to need their batsmen to knuckle down and apply themselves on what will probably a similar wicket to the one in Nagpur. While they’ve shown that they’re not particularly comfortable in the conditions, it just takes one big partnership to take the game away from India. Expect Amla, de Villiers, Elgar and du Plessis to step it up and fight to salvage something from the series.

The Venue
The final test will be played at the Feroz Shar Kotla in New Delhi. First established in 1883, the ground hosted its first Test in the 1948-49 season when the West Indies toured India in a five-match series. The history of the ground is not of great importance, however, as India’s team manager, Ravi Shastri, has more than likely been on the phone to the ground’s curator asking for a surface similar to the one in Nagpur.

Although I don’t think it’ll be as bad as that particular deck, it’s still likely that it will turn from day one with very little assistance for the seamers. The toss will be important here as nobody will want to bat last on a dry dusty deck. There’s no rain predicted for the duration of the Test so expect a full five days worth of play – if it goes that far.

Verdict: India 15/20
With the amount of quality spinners that India have in their side, I simply can’t see them losing this match. Back them to claim a straight-forward enough victory against an out of sorts Proteas XI.

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