Test at Gahunje gives India chance to wrap up South Africa series

The Times of India

The Times of India

Author 2019-10-10 10:44:00

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  • It won't be a big surprise if both teams make some changes in the playing XI.
  • However, taking unconventional decisions has almost become a new trend.
  • South Africa's fight in the first innings at Vizag was remarkable. Not many teams have followed up India's 500-plus in the first innings with a 400-plus score in India.
PUNE: Gahunje is not India's happy hunting ground. It's a venue where you can't take things for granted.

When India take on South Africa in the second Test starting at MCA international stadium here on Thursday, despite already leading 1-0 in the three-match series, Virat Kohli's team are expected to guard against complacency.

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It's only two years since Pune hosted its first ever Test against Australia. O'Keefe has played only four Tests for nine wickets since. Australia have played 27 Tests since.

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"We have absolutely no regrets but only learnings from those games (sic)," said Kohli. "If you see our performances after that, we haven't lost a Test at home (M10, W7, D3). For us, it's about not being complacent and going out there and doing our job properly. "Kohli's impressive record as captain in home Tests stands at 16 wins, one defeat and five draws.

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When India played a Test match here last time, things were quite different. Off-spinner Jayant Yadav was yet to play his last Test (which he did in Pune) and Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav had to wait two more matches to make his Test debut in Dharamshala (fourth Test of the series).

Kohli has since taken a firm grip on this team after the controversial departure of coach Anil Kumble. But it's unclear if he has improved remarkably as skipper, especially in field setting and handling spinners. Of course, by reviewing Jasprit Bumrah's hat-trick ball successfully in West Indies (against the bowler's wish), he has redeemed his DRS record. But his natural instinct to take a review has proved to be counter-productive in the past.

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"None of us know how the pitch will behave tomorrow morning, but we will have to think about the best combination possible," said Kohli. "It's not easy to play Test matches in home conditions when it's challenging. When the ball is spinning, we too have found it difficult in the past but we are a team that looks for answers and not excuses so that's the reason why we keep on improving."

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South Africa's fight in the first innings at Vizag was remarkable. Not many teams have followed up India's 500-plus in the first innings with a 400-plus score in India. Only Australia (1), Pakistan (2), West Indies (2) and England (1) had done it previously in India. But all those six Tests had ended in draws.

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However, the visitors succumbed in the fourth innings. That tells a thing or two about India's improved attack, offie Ashwin's outstanding credentials at home and the team's ability to press hard. Kohli also said how Rohit Sharma's quick scoring at the top helped them get more overs to mount a second attack on the South African batsmen.

Faf du Plessis, the visiting skipper, hoped that his team can land the first punch on the opposition, starting with the toss. They had lost the toss in the previous Test at Vizag. It was the eighth successive toss they had lost in Tests in Asia.

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There is talk that the pitch will offer turn due to dampness because of extensive rains. But conventional wisdom says that such conditions suit the pace bowlers more. Either way, it will take a huge leap of faith to expect a high-scoring affair here like Vizag.

Du Plessis said: "We are planning for a pitch that will be a bit drier and the ball to spin. If it doesn't, so be it."

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