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Another pace test awaits India

13 January 2018

Little wonder that Gibson and du Plessis were watching Ngidi carefully in South Africa's training session on Thursday. The South African line-up enjoys the battle of being on a surface where everything except the crowd is against them.

Head-to-head: South Africa have an excellent record at Centurion. While it may not be filled to capacity during the week, weekends and early evenings are packed with people and they are as vociferous in their war cries. The difference is we did not get out while Rohit got out after having done the hard work. South Africa won the match by an innings and 25 runs despite Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test century.

Steyn is crucial for South Africa's success in next few months. At least two batting positions will be debated as the tourists seek a way to play themselves back into the three-Test series. So run-scoring, while tough, is not impossible. "For us‚ at the moment, it is unknown and we will see how it plays over the next five days", he told a news conference. Indian skipper Virat Kohli need to bat for long for his side. There's nothing much left to imagination if one excludes Cheteshwar Pujara's contribution - he faced 92 deliveries before making 26 runs in the first innings. Then we were. As an advert for Test cricket this is as good as it gets.

It was saddening to see South African speedster Dale Steyn walk off in the first test after betting a bruised heel. In the previous game it was pace and it worked.

Old-timers talked about the batsmen's lack of technique, the line and length of the bowlers and some dissected the team selection and some others turned sports psychologists going into the mindset of players when the seaming ball is flying around.

Queried whether vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane would be included in the eleven, Kohli answered, "It's amusing how things change in a matter of days".

With that in mind, and four bowlers being enough, Temba Bavuma could return to strengthen the batting.

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South Africa reduced India to 82/7 in their second innings at tea on the penultimate day of the opening cricket Test at Newlands here on Monday. Will India opt for the same combination they used in Cape Town? India had reached 30/0 in pursuit of 208 and a win was on the cards until Shikhar Dhawan succumbed to a short ball. The team management doesn't expect it to be serious. "It's going to be a good SuperSport Park track".

The SuperSport Park pitch also has a lot of grass on it, but not green grass, partly because extreme heat in the build-up burnt it off. There is no reason to believe we can't do that again.

The "Ravensmead Wrecker" has now played eight Tests at the foot of Table Mountain and taken 47 wickets. "If you pick four seamers, he can be in amongst them".

Mohammed Shami needs one more wicket to reach 100 Test scalps. "We prepare bowling friendly conditions because we want to win Test matches". There were a series of meetings post the Newlands where the players were apprised of the enormity of the situation and were told to come with ideas to overcome the crisis. "We are in a good space..."

"It doesn't mean that if you are playing six batters, you can afford to go out and play loose shots".

Before the series got underway, Kohli revealed the selection for Cape Town was based on form after Rahane had a dismal recent series against Sri Lanka, however, he has shown the ability to score runs away from home.

Another pace test awaits India