After the Protea’s emphatic innings victory over India yesterday you’d think they deserved a day off. Add to that that the win came in 4 days, with a day to spare, and so they were entitled to a day off. Yet they spent their day off having an optional net session. This side is professional.
They’ve come to India to win the series, and with it take over from their hosts at the top of the Test rankings. Yesterdays win, as emphatic as it was, is just a step in that direction. There’s still another Test left and that’s were the focus has switched.
In 2008, this sides defining year, the year they won for the first time in England and Australia, actually began with a drawn series in India. That series, a 3 match series as apposed to this 2 match series, saw a drawn first match followed by an emphatic victory by the Protea’s, one that saw India bowled out on the first day before lunch. On that occasion India prepared a pitch that started as a day 5 one and got worse. The pitch was made to ensure an Indian win and a share of the series. And it worked. Expect much of the same in terms of pitch preparation for this weekend.
The difference between the team that toured two years ago and this one is focus. This team were able to put the backroom problems that engulfed the team, with Mickey Arthur’s resignation mere days before they left for India, behind them and focus on the cricket. They overcame a terrible start, being 6/2, to take the game away from India and dominate an Indian team that hadn’t lost a home Test since the last time the Protea’s toured. It was also the first Test they had lost with Dhoni as captain.
The Protea’s will be unchanged no doubt this weekend, had they lost the Test then perhaps the misfiring Prince or Duminy would have missed out and Alviro Petersen made his Test debut. That’s unlikely now. South Africa will be unchanged and India will make two or three changes in an attempt to draw the series and keep their number one ranking.
This South African team are bettered prepared to deal with spin than any other Protea’s team that has toured. Smith looks to dominate, Prince, who’s more of a middle order batsman and thus faces more spin than openers would, Amla is wristy and sub continental, Kallis can handle anything, de Villiers has great footwork, and although badly out of form at the moment, JP Duminy is also a fine player of spin bowling. This batting line up can dominate all attacks on all surfaces, and having a batting coach like Kepler Wessels in charge there’s no doubt they’ll be well drilled for what’s to come.
As for the bowling attack, we know what to expect from them. Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world. In only 37 Tests he has 13 five wicket hauls and 4 ten wicket hauls. That’s a terrific record. His strike rate of 39 is the best in Test history for any bowlers playing a decent amount of games. He leads this attack and no matter what the surface he’ll be a handful. Morne Morkel is his new deputy and is coming of age with the added responsibility that goes with being a new ball bowler. Steyns pace and swing together with Morne’s bounce and aggression has the makings of the best opening attack in world cricket. If they continue to go at the rate they are right now. The new kid on the block, Wayne Parnell adds left arm swing to the attack, and with the ageless Kallis regaining his bowling fitness, the attack is looking well rounded and destructive. Case in point the last Test.
Spinner Paul Harris makes up the attack. After a poor series against England he came into this one low on confidence and with questions marks over his place in the team. His second innings figures will do much to restore his faith. He’s often taken for granted and underestimated, and he’ll have no problem with the opposition continuing to do this. He does a job for his captain and does it well. He bowled the entire second session yesterday, and not only picks up the odd wicket, ties the run rate down, but gives the pace attack enough rest so that they can come up with the sort of burst Dale Steyn produced on day 3.
India will fight, and no doubt do all they can to ensure the pitch suits them, but have no doubt that the Protea’s will be ready. The battle for number one continues on Sunday.
pic from cricinfo.com