India in a Catch-22 situation after losing three second innings wickets in Centurion Test

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South Africa pacer Lungi Ngidi proved too hot for India.

South Africa inched closer to a series victory on day four of the second Test at Centurion after reducing India to 35-3, chasing 287 on a deteriorating pitch.

With India’s main man Virat Kohli back in the hut and the ball keeping low, the target seems out of India’s reach going into day five.

Here, we look at the things we learned.

INDIA IN A CATCH-22 SITUATION

The visitors scored 35 runs in 23 overs by stumps and need to make 252 in the final day. They can’t take too many risks pushing the scoring rate as they might end up losing wickets in a bunch and that would deny them an opportunity to at least save the game. But if they block everything, the Proteas will have the freedom to experiment throughout day five and rotate the bowlers whichever way they want. The dismissal of Kohli has meant India don’t have a batsman who can score freely and put the pressure on the opposition.

PARTHIV PATEL AHEAD OF ROHIT SHARMA

The Indian management’s decision to send Parthiv ahead of Rohit proved two things – the wicket-keeper is resilient enough to handle hostile bowling and Rohit can’t be relied upon to deliver in the toughest of situations. Not only has the under-pressure batsman kept a proven performer like Ajinkya Rahane out of the team, it was Parthiv who was asked to weather the storm before stumps on day four. If a pure middle-order batsman can’t be relied upon to do the job and save the series, why is he there in the first place?

DE VILLIERS THE GAME-CHANGER

South Africa have a lethal bowling attack but in both Tests, it was AB de Villiers who proved to be the game-changer during the most critical moments. The star batsman made a quickfire 65 after the hosts were 12-3 in the first Test and followed that up with 35 in the second that helped take the target beyond 200. In the Centurion Test, with the Proteas 3-2 in the second essay, he negated the new ball bowlers and ended up scoring 80 off 121 balls on an up-and-down wicket. His spark in three critical innings ensured the Proteas stayed just ahead of India.

TOP MARKS FOR SHAMI

India’s fielders have let the bowlers down but the pacers maintained their intensity. Mohammed Shami conjured three wickets out of nothing, first getting the ball to jump on a free flowing De Villiers before getting Dean Elgar on the pull shot and catching the outside edge of a clueless Quinton de Kock. Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma too maintained pace and pressure on the fourth day, giving India an outside chance of squaring the series. The Indians can draw some strength from the performances of the pace attack that looks good enough to rattle any opposition anywhere.

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Afghanistan's inaugural Test match set for June 14 in India

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Afghanistan cricket's meteoric rise is set for its latest milestone.

Afghanistan will play its maiden Test match in the southern Indian city of Bangalore on June 14, cricket officials announced Tuesday.

India’s cricket board said it welcomed the opportunity to host its “friends” for their first Test since they gained full status last year.

The war-torn nation have played the majority of their home games in India, which has supported the minnows in their quest for Test status.

“It will be a historic day for Afghanistan and everybody is waiting for it,” Afghanistan cricket board chairman Atif Mashal said in New Delhi.

Afghanistan have emerged as a competitive international team, with strong performances in the limited-overs format including two one-day series victories in Zimbabwe.

Last year, spinner Rashid Khan and former captain Mohammad Nabi became the first Afghans to be picked in the lucrative Indian Premier League auction.

Afghanistan and Ireland were granted five-day status in June last year by the International Cricket Council, becoming the 11th and 12th Test-playing nations.

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Joe Root cleared to play in first ODI against Australia after recovering from illness

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Joe Root was struck down by severe dehydration in the final Ashes Test.

Joe Root has been passed fit for the first one-day international against Australia after recovering from a viral illness.

Root was hospitalised on the final morning of the Ashes in Sydney having been stricken with a bad case of gastroenteritis and sat out Thursday’s warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI.

But the Test captain has finally shaken the bug and will give the tourists a major boost by reclaiming his place in the top order for Sunday’s Gillette Series opener.

The 27-year-old took a full part in England’s net session, which took place indoors due to a downpour at the MCG, and emerged in rude health.

Limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan said: “Joe is good and should be fit to play tomorrow.

“He’s extremely important. He’s been a fantastic leader within the group and, on top of that, there’s the weight of runs he’s scored and the manner that he’s scored them.

“He’s obviously a key part. He’s a very versatile player and can score in any strike-rate that needs to be required, given the situation. He’s very important.”

Morgan did not offer any further clues about the make-up of the England’s team but hinted that all three openers – Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy and Alex Hales could be accommodated.

That may lead to Hales slotting in at number three, with Sam Billings vulnerable to any such switch.

“That is an option,” said Morgan. “Our batting has been our strength over the last couple of years and we don’t want to compromise that, so it’ll be a case of picking our strongest six, plus an all-rounder possibly, or an extra seamer.”

While the recently concluded Ashes series unfolded at an attritional pace, both sides are likely to approach the next five games in a more cavalier fashion.

England rebranded their limited-overs game dramatically since they were last one these shores, the abject 2015 World Cup campaign which exposed some outdated ideas and became a watershed moment for the team.

And Morgan is clear there is no going back.

“That tournament had quite a significant role for us, really,” he said.

“After that, a line was drawn in the sand and we were given clear directives that the goal was the 2019 World Cup. To bridge the gap between where we were at in that World Cup and, say, being in the semi-final or the final was the first port of the call and bridging that gap came quicker that we ever thought it would.

“We got a huge amount of confidence from the selectors and Andrew Strauss, our director of cricket, gave absolute clarity in what we wanted.

“We certainly thrived on that. It’s not often you get free rein and ambition to be adventurous as you like.”

The Dublin-born batsman is often seen as a trailblazer within English cricket, a player who saw the need to adopt new methods and accelerate more quickly in one-day cricket before many of his compatriots caught up.

Morgan has proved the ideal man to usher in a new breed of cricketers who play with the handbrake off but he believes the evolution of the format is continuing at a rapid rate.

Indeed, with head coach Trevor Bayliss set to leave when his contract expires next September, Morgan offered tentative support for the return of a split backroom team – with one man in charge of Test cricket and another overseeing the white-ball unit.

England were the first to adopt such an approach, when Ashley Giles and Andy Flower share the roles and while that ultimately proved unsuccessful, it may simply have been ahead of its time.

“I think down the line there will be (a chance),” suggested Morgan.

“Cricket is going to change even more in the next 10 years than it has in the previous 10 years. I’d say, if anything, the formats are getting further and further apart. So I’m open to it.”

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