South Africa eye subcontinent hat-trick

A buoyant South Africa will be keen to capitalise on India’s form and fitness worries ahead of Friday’s third and final Test in Kanpur to complete a hat-trick in the subcontinent.

The visitors lead 1-0 in the series following their crushing win by an innings and 90 runs in the second Test in Ahmedabad last Saturday after the opening match ended in a draw in Chennai.

South Africa need only a draw to make it three-in-a-row in the subcontinent, having clinched Test series victories in Pakistan in 2007 and in Bangladesh this year.

Adaptability is the key to South Africa’s success in recent months in South Asia, where home spinners usually make merry on low, slow pitches.

Graeme Smith’s South Africans look better prepared than most of the visiting teams as they have not allowed the home spinners to dictate terms.

India’s spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, proven match-winners at home, looked below their best in the last two Tests while the pacemen failed to match their South African counterparts.

South Africa have thrived on a mediocre Indian attack, posting 540 and 331-5 in Chennai and 494-7 declared in Ahmedabad. AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie and Hasim Amla have each scored centuries.

The visitors have also proved they have a sharp bowling attack to back their solid batting, with Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel making life uncomfortable for the Indian batsmen with their pace and variations.

“As a captain this is the first time I feel I have a bowling attack that can be successful in the subcontinent,” Smith said ahead of the final Test.

India were undone by quality pace on a lively track in Ahmedabad where they were shot out for 76 off 20 overs in the first innings, their second-lowest total at home.

They did better in the second innings when they made 328, with Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni scoring half-centuries. But it was not good enough to save the match, which ended inside three days.

Injuries to key bowlers have also added to India’s problems ahead of the must-win match, with Kumble (groin) and paceman Ishant Sharma (finger and toe) yet to recover completely.
Both will face a fitness test on Thursday.

“The only snag in our plans is the injury worries,” said Kumble. “We have a couple of problems to work around—unfortunately, my own injury is a major concern really—and that is giving us some stress.”

India could name three spinners in their playing eleven as the pitch at Green Park is expected to help slow bowlers.

“The wicket here has always been slow, with a low bounce and from what I’ve been given to understand, nothing much has changed,” said Kumble.

“It’s time for us to look ahead and recoup. We all know the responsibility we carry and realise that the only way to do this is to get a really big score and have the bowlers come up with a special performance.”

Off-spinner Ramesh Powar was included in the 16-man squad as cover for Kumble. Seamer Munaf Patel came in to replace Rudra Pratap Singh, who was axed after the second match.—AFP

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