The 3rd Test between South Africa and India get underway tomorrow morning amongst the threat of terrorist activity, a pitch that will look like a day 5 pitch even before day 1 and the dawn of the much hyped and eagerly anticipated IPL.
South Africa go into the match knowing that they can not lose the series, having drawn the first and won the second Test, inside 3 days, but will be looking to ensure they get the series victory they require to leap frog India into 2nd place on the ICC Test rankings.
India go into the match looking to square the series, keep their 2nd position on the rankings, and restore some much needed pride after the 2nd Test drubbing South Africa inflicted on them.
For this very reason it seems that India are determined to get the pitch they want for this deciding match, and will look to get it as far removed from the green top that South Africa terrorized their batting line up on last week.
The pitch is expected to turn from the first ball and India will take advantage of a heavy spin attack to wrestle the initiative away from the touring South Africans. While this may suit India it should not be interpreted that the South Africans will be tossing and turning in bed the night before, frightened of the prospect of a much vaunted spin attack having them in knots and off their feet in no time. This isn’t the same South African team of a decade ago, one which was said to be unable to play spin, never mind good spin. That myth has well and truly been dispelled and this lot, who have beaten Pakistan and Bangladesh in Pakistan and Bangladesh in recent months, and are looking for a hat trick of Sub Continental scalps, will not be daunted by the prospect of a terrible, dry, dirt pitch. In Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers they have some very good players of spin bowling, and although totals may not be big in this match, they will be confident of posting scores higher then that of India.
India for their part should not be over confident. The pitch that seems to be awaiting them for this match may be one that will take turn immediately, it may be devoid of even a blade of grass, but with the inconsistent bounce that is expected, one ball keeping low the next shooting off, not to mention the huge cracks that will be baked into it, Dale Steyn and co will have more than enough opportunity to blast the batsmen out. It is for this very reason that I would not drop Morne Morkel, as is being suggested, for a second spinner, Robin Peterson, as the three South African quickies, Steyn, Ntini and Morkel could cause a lot of damage on this track and could be very effective. If South Africa were to entertain the thought of a second spinner I would either replace Prince with Peterson or JP Duminy. Prince has not scored for a number of Tests now and being dropped may be just what he needs to rediscover form and hunger. Peterson would be the second spinner with Harris and although the team would be a batsman light, he is capable with the bat and with Prince thus far ineffectual the difference in batting would not be noticed, but a further option with the ball would be available. If South Africa do not want to weaken the batting line up, in a match that could again only see 3 days, Duminy would be the option as he is a solid, stylish batsman, who has done well in ODI cricket and is patiently waiting for his chance in Test cricket, and he does offer some part time spin in his favour.
All in all we are set for a quick fire battle between two sides looking to catch Australia within the next season. The pitch should be in India’s favour and why not, they are at home, but will give the Protea’s the chance to measure just how far they’ve come and just how good they really are.