India take on formidable South Africa in the first of a two-Test series at the Wanderers in Johannesburg starting Wednesday.
Where to Watch Live
The first Test is scheduled for a 2pm IST start with live coverage on Ten Cricket and Ten Sports (in Hindi) in India. The match can also be live streamed free online by clicking HERE. Viewers in the U.K. can catch the action live online HERE. To watch the match in South Africa and the rest of Africa via Supersport, click HERE. Viewers in the U.S. can catch the action via live streaming click HERE.
[Read Day One report HERE]
One thing is quite clear in world cricket at the moment - home advantage is king. Australia's thumping of England to reclaim the Ashes, just a few months after they were thrashed by the Alastair Cook and co. in the UK themselves, being a case in point.
So, India are going to have to conjure some magic from the forgotten realms to top South Africa.
The wand to create that magic primarily rests on the batsmen - found out and bounced out by the South African bowlers in the ODI series, which went 2-0 the home side's way.
Enough cannot be stressed on the importance that the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli hold.
The series was billed as the Proteas pace battery vs the young swashbuckling Indian batsmen, and the series will be decided on who comes out on top.
If India's inexperienced, but very talented, lineup can withstand the likes of oh-my-god-how-is-he-moving-the-ball-so-much-yet-bowling-so-fast Dale Steyn, I-really-cannot-stop-taking-wickets Vernon Philander and even-an-over-pitched-delivery-will-rear-up Morne Morkel, then the away side can come away with a series victory.
Not too much has been written about the India bowlers, led by the experienced I-want-to-prove-to-everyone-I've-still-got-it Zaheer Khan, who will gun for Graeme Smith's wicket yet again, and while they will play a really important role as well, the onus will be on the visitors yielding the willow.
The Wanderers pitch will be fast with steep bounce to moot. The Indian batters did not fare too well in the first ODI, with only this-guy-is-so-good-that-even-if-you-rate-him-highly-he-will-still-be-underrrated MS Dhoni really showing any fight.
"The pitch seems to have something in it for us. We utilized it well in the ODI and hope to do the same in the Test match too," Morkel said. "There's a tendency to get just a little over-excited. We will have to guard against that and make the most of what the pitch offers."
Dhawan and Kohli are two naturally aggressive and arrogant, in the kindest way possible, batsmen. If they can channel those attributes into their batting, like they have done so often in the sub-continent, then India will make the SA bowlers sweat quite a bit.
India have won a Test match at the Wanderers before - back in 2006 - and raising some of those ghosts might not be such a bad idea.
The talent is definitely there, but if India can turn that talent hat into a few rabbits, remains to be seen.
Team news: South Africa: The Proteas are expected to go with a similar lineup that last played Pakistan.
The decision that Smith and co. will have to take is whether to go for an all-out pace attack, or bring in the one spinner, which will likely be Imran Tahir.
India: Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher are likely to go with the majority of the XI that coasted to victory against the West Indies with a few forced changes of course.
Kohli is expected to take up Sachin Tendulkar's No. 4 place, with the No.6 slot then likely to be a toss-up between Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja. Rahane is a natural batsman, while Jadeja has been more of a bowling all-rounder of late, and with the Wanderers pitch unlikely to aid spin, it will be a risk to select the southpaw.
Zaheer will spearhead the pace bowling attack, with Mohammed Shami a shoo-in. The third pacer slot will be a fight between Ishant Sharma, who impressed in the final ODI against South Africa, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.
Squads: South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), AB De Villiers, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf Du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Rory Kleinveldt, Robin Peterson, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Thami Tsolekile.
India: MS Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Mohamed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha, Pragyan Ojha.
Expected lineups: South Africa: Smith, Peterson, Amla, Kallis, De Villiers, Du Plessis, Duminy, Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Tahir.
India: Vijay, Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Rahane, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Shami, Ishant.