SA look to heap pressure on India

South Africa will be seeking to wrap up a series victory against India, the team ranked number one in Test cricket, in the second Test which starts at Kingsmead on Sunday.

South African captain Graeme Smith said his players wanted to carry on in the dominant form they showed in winning the first Test at Centurion by an innings and 25 runs on Monday.

Smith and his side will also be eyeing the prospect of taking over the number one ranking if they win all three Tests against India.

“We’ve taken a few steps forward and India have probably got a few doubts,” said Smith, who highlighted two areas where second-ranked South Africa could still improve.

“We can always be a little more precise. One or two catches or a run-out can change a game.

“When you have number one playing number two these are things you have to be on top of things,” he added, alluding to three catches and some run-out opportunities that his team fluffed during the first Test.

In recent years the Kingsmead pitch has suited fast bowling, with a reputation for having more pace and bounce than any other pitch in the country.

With fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel currently ranked first and third among the world’s best Test bowlers, South Africa will be hoping for a significant advantage.

But rain has hampered the preparation of the Test match and there is uncertainty about how the pitch will play.

Rain could also interfere with the match itself, with the long range forecast indicating that the first and fifth days in particular could be affected.

And, although South Africa have won 12 out of 18 post-isolation Tests at Kingsmead, they have lost their two most recent Tests there by significant margins, 175 runs against Australia in 2008/09 and an innings and 98 runs against England last season.

Below par
It will be India’s third Test at the ground. They earned a draw in 1992/93 in what was the first home Test played by South Africa since the end of political isolation but lost by 328 runs in 1996/97, when Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock bowled them out for 100 and 66, and by 174 runs in 2006/07.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted that India had performed below their best in the first Test, with the bowling a particular cause for concern. But he was confident the return of left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan would make a significant difference to the attack.

“Zaheer is a key player,” said Dhoni.

“With all the experience he has, he always comes up with new plans and changes his plans during the course of a game.”

Although Dhoni did not speculate about likely changes to the batting line-up, the place of left-hander Suresh Raina is under threat after two poor innings at Centurion, where he seemed ill-equipped to deal with the pace and bounce of the South African bowlers.

Either Cheteshwar Pujara or Murali Vijay could come into the side. – AFP

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher, Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Ryan McLaren, JP Duminy, Wayne Parnell.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Sree Sreesanth, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Jaidev Unadkat, Pragyan Ojha.

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Colin Bryden
Colin Bryden
Semi-active journalist and editor SA Cricket Annual.

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