After going down in a convincing manner against India in the first Test, the South African Test team has an uphill challenge ahead of them in the second Test, to be played in Pune. The most likely result remains a victory for the Virat Kohli-led team. However, Indian fans would remember what happened the last time a Test was played here.
It was the first game in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy of 2017. Australia recorded a convincing win thanks to a hundred by Steve Smith and a haul of 12 wickets in the match from Steve O'Keefe. The pitch was a dire dustbowl where Australia gained the huge advantage of batting first. So, can the South African's also turn the tables on India, like the Australians?
Well, if the visitors have to win the second Test, there are certain things they have to do. Let us look at, step by step, all the necessary requirements for a South African win at Pune.
The importance of toss cannot be overrated. While the Indian team has shown the capacity to win matches while batting second, even if the opposition puts up a good total, any visiting team finds it very hard to deal with scoreboard pressure when they are up against quality spin bowlers. So, for South Africa, batting first, and therefore making India bat last, would be very important.
The last time India lost a series at home, one of the main bowlers who caused trouble to them was James Anderson. His brilliant performance in Kolkata Test of 2012 between India and England was one of the major reasons for his team winning that match, and consequently, the series. Hence, South Africa can't just rely on their spinners to win in India.
Their best bet among the set of pacers they have in the squad is Kagiso Rabada. While he didn't get too many wickets in the first Test, Rabada didn't bowl badly. But in the second Test, the young pacer will have to take his bowling to the next level. He will have to prove that he can succeed in all conditions. Perhaps a bit of reverse swing, if available, may do the trick.
More batsmen need to step up
South Africans won't have too many complaints from their batsmen. Yes, not all of them succeeded but overall, the battling line up showed a lot of fight. However, more needs to come from their top order. Aiden Markram and Theunis de Bruyn, along with Temba Bavuma, have to get going. Only Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock cannot carry the load of the batting.
Maharaj needs to be backed
Keshav Maharaj didn't have much success in the first Test, but needs to be supported. He does have genuine talent and if there is support from the other end, could make a big impact. He got Rohit Sharma out stumped twice. Of course, on both occasions, Sharma was looking to increase the run-rate but it still requires talent to beat someone like Rohit in the flight.
If the bowling from the other end is also good and the fields set for Maharaja are intelligent, then, he can achieve his full potential. The left-arm spinner is certainly worth persisting with.
New ball has to work
Vernon Philander is a master with the new ball. Because he doesn't possess extra pace, it is with the new ball that he would be most effective. If the Indians are able to play the initial overs without much damage, stopping them would be very difficult.
So, the Proteas have to make the new ball count and get early breakthroughs. Not only would this prevent India from getting a stranglehold on the match, but it would also allow Maharaj to start bowling in a more favourable situation. Otherwise, Indians can prevent him from getting his rhythm.
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