Bengaluru: Having decimated South Africa inside three days on a turning track in Mohali, India will once again look to unleash their troika of spinners to spoil AB de Villiers’ landmark 100th match when the two sides square off in the second cricket Test, here on Saturday.
After a comprehensive 108-run victory in the first Test, Virat Kohli’s boys are expected to come out all guns blazing against a Proteas side which has been plagued by injuries as well as ineptness to survive on tricky sub-continental turners.
It will also be a test of character for one of contemporary cricket’s greatest batsman, who will be deservingly playing his 100th Test at his ‘spiritual cricketing home’, where he has got used to the chants of ‘ABD ABD’ over the years.
While Amit Mishra had his ‘number’ during both innings at Mohali, but there are little doubts that De Villiers is the only big threat that stands in the way of another Indian victory with key pacer Vernon Philander out of the series owing to a twisted ankle and Dale Steyn still looking a doubtful starter.
With the trio of Ravichandran Ashwin (8 wickets), Ravindra Jadeja (8 wickets) and Amit Mishra (3 wickets) in prime form, there are no marks for guessing that India would like to put the visitors through another tough ‘spin test’ on a Chinnaswamy track, which might last longer than the one at Mohali.
With the spinners accounting for 19 of the 20 wickets at Mohali, the onus will again be on Ashwin and Co to deliver the goods as India would like to get an unassailable 2-0 lead in the second game itself.
There has been an interesting late addition to the squad in young Punjab batting all-rounder Gurkeerat Singh Mann, who does have a chance of making his debut as the fourth spinner.
In that case, India will go with a single pacer in Ishant Sharma dropping both Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. In any case Yadav is likely to be replaced by Ishant in the playing XI.
Gurkeerat was kept as a stand-by fielder during the Mohali match, when Rohit Sharma, Stuart Binny and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were released to play Ranji Trophy. Punjab did not have a Ranji game in the last round then but have one in this round which starts Sunday.
For South Africa, the defeat in the first Test must have been deflating after the high of winning the T20 as well as the ODI series.
While they would take a lot of heart from the fact that their spin attack (Imran Tahir with 6 scalps while Simon Harmer had 5 and Dean Elgar 4) yielded 15 wickets in the first game, their batting against spin did not inspire confidence of highest order.
Just how much they struggled was evident from the fact that none of their specialist batsmen could total a 100 runs with De Villiers’ 79 (63 and 16) being the highest.
The positive aspect for the Proteas, however, will be return of Morne Morkel, who is fit to play along with seasoned left-hander JP Duminy.
If Steyn makes it in the end, then the Steyn-Morkel combination could be a potent force against the Indians.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Rohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Stuart Binny, Gurkeerat Singh Mann.
South Africa: Hashim Amla (captain), AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas (wk), Dane Piedt, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Dale Styen, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada.