South Africa coach Ottis Gibson has declared that the Proteas will have plans in place for Virat Kohli and his India team-mates in the upcoming three-match Test series beginning on Friday at Newlands.
Speaking to the media ahead of the first Test, the former England bowling coach said he does not expect Kohli to have the same impact as he did against his former side towards the end of 2016.
The Indian skipper had then struck two centuries and as many fifties to lead the hosts to a 4-0 series victory over England.
“They (India) were too good for us,” Gibson said.
“They played really well and were led very well by the captain, who got a lot of runs. There were times in those conditions where we couldn’t get him out,” he added.
“I think in these conditions it will be a lot different. We’ll have some plans for him as we will for every other player in the team,” Gibson replied when asked if Kohli could recreate the same magic on South African shores.
The Proteas coach has a selection headache ahead of the first Test with Dale Steyn returning to international cricket after a long injury lay-off.
“He’s had a year off,” said Gibson about the long-time number one bowler in the world, who is recovering from a serious shoulder injury.
“He might well play this weekend, depending on the make-up of the team.
“I wouldn’t think that if you were to pick a three-man seam attack plus a spinner that you would want to put him into that three-man attack in case something happened. It would leave you too vulnerable in case he doesn’t finish a game.”
Indian top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, meanwhile, continued the message of confidence that has been a hallmark of the Indian party since they arrived in South Africa.
“Our preparation has been fantastic so far,” said Pujara. “We are very confident.”
Pujara said the Indians had been getting ready for the tour since their three home Tests against Sri Lanka in November and December, with pitches prepared to be as much like those in South Africa as possible.
“When we were playing Sri Lanka we had this series in mind. Obviously it was different from what we might get here but we tried replicating what we could. Even in our net practices we had in mind that we would be touring South Africa and we were trying to practise accordingly,” said Pujara.
Pujara is on his third tour of South Africa. “Most of our players have been here before,” he said. “We are not bothered about the kind of pitch that is prepared. Bounce is always a challenge but we know what to expect from the pitch and the opposition. When you have spent some time on these pitches you know what to do.”
Hosts Australia have already regained the famous urn from England after flying away to a 3-0 lead in the opening three Tests. The tourists, however, gave a good account of themselves in the rain-affected fourth Test at Melbourne which was ultimately drawn.
All attention now turns to Sydney as we enter the New Year. We look the at key talking points ahead of the final Test of a series which has been littered with some brilliant individual displays, mostly by players in an Australian shirt, as well as its fair share of controversies.
MASON CRANE TO MAKE ENGLAND DEBUT
The 20-year-old is set to make history for the tourists by becoming the first specialist spinner to play for England at the SCG in 90 years.
The leg-spinner has been a part of the touring party for England since the beginning of the series though his inclusion was largely seen as a way to integrate him into the setup for the future.
Crane would not really have expected to get a Test in his first ever tour but a side-strain to all-rounder Chris Woakes means that the Hampshire spinner is all set to make his England and Ashes debut at the historic cricket ground.
MITCHELL STARC RETURNS FOR AUSTRALIA
The Australian pace spearhead had to miss out on the Melbourne Test due a bruising in his heel which provided an opportunity for Jackson Bird.
Starc though, has fully recovered and has been included in the hosts’ playing XI for the SCG Test with Bird making way. Despite missing a game, the southpaw is the leading wicket-taker in the Ashes series with 19 scalps to his name and his return will prove to be a big boost for Steve Smith and his men as they look to begin 2018 on a high.
ASHTON AGAR MISSES OUT
With Starc returning to the playing XI, spinner Ashton Agar is set to miss out. With Sydney traditionally bringing spinners into play, the hosts had contemplated playing Agar as the second fiddle to Nathan Lyon.
However, the left-armer is now unfortunately going to miss out after Smith highlighted the extra grass on the Sydney pitch which should aid the fast bowlers.
Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Lyon are expected to form Australia’s bowling attack on Thursday with Mitchell Marsh providing the option for the fifth bowler.
MOEEN ALI TO KEEP HIS PLACE
The England all-rounder has had disastrous Ashes so far in what has been an Australian summer to forget for him. Moeen’s horrendous form with both bat and ball has led to many former players and pundits calling for the Englishman to be dropped.
Despite this, the all-rounder has played all four Tests so far in the tour in the absence of any viable alternatives in the spin-department. He has scored only 136 runs in seven innings Down Under while picking up just three wickets at a dismal average of 135.
With Sydney’s penchant of aiding slow bowlers, England are all set to retain Moeen in the squad with Crane joining him as the second spinner.
ENGLAND AIM TO END ASHES ON HIGH
After being blown away in the opening three Tests, Joe Root’s men did show some fight in the Melbourne Test, led by a record unbeaten double-ton by their stalwart Alastair Cook.
In a series where their dismal performances have been overshadowed by off-field alcohol-related debacles, England really need find a silver lining at Sydney.
They will take comfort from the fact the city has been traditionally their best hunting ground in Australia. Of the 55 Ashes Tests held at the famous ground, Australia have won 26 while England have come out on top 22 times.
The tourists did manage to avoid a second successive 5-0 Ashes washout Down Under but if they could make this 3-1, they will go home with something to finally smile about amidst the despair and gloom which currently surrounds the side.
Since the format’s introduction in February 2005, 30 hundreds have been scored by various batsmen.
Here, we take a look at the top-five century-makers in the 20-over format internationally.
CHRIS GAYLE – 2
It is a certainty that the West Indies batsman will feature in any list when it comes to T20I greats. The destructive Jamaican’s game is tailor-made for the format and it is no surprise that he has put in some exceptional displays.
The left-hander scored the first-ever T20I ton when he hit a 57-ball 117 against South Africa at the Wanderers in 2007. He would have to wait another nine years before registering his second hundred and it could not have come at a better occasion.
BRENDON MCCULLUM – 2
The former Kiwi skipper is another like Gayle whose swashbuckling hitting translates well in the 20-over game. His first T20I hundred came against New Zealand’s arch-rivals Australia at Christchurch in February 2010.
McCullum smashed a 56-ball 116 laden with eight sixes and 12 boundaries. His second hundred, also like Gayle, came in a World T20 clash. During the 2012 edition in Sri Lanka, the Blackcaps batsman destroyed Bangladesh with 58-ball 123 to further his credentials as one of the most exciting limited-overs batsman of his time.
He remains the highest run-scorer in the format with 2,140 runs in 70 innings.
ROHIT SHARMA -2
The Indian batsman is the only batsman in the world to register three ODI double-hundreds, a feat deemed impossible a decade or so ago. He is equally effective in the 20-over format where he has two hundreds to his name.
His first came in a losing cause against South Africa at Dharamshala in October 2015. The right-hander scored 106 off 66 deliveries though India would go one to lose the match by seven wickets.
Sharma‘s second however, would come in a winning cause. The Mumbai-man smashed 10 sixes and 12 boundaries in a 43-ball 118 against Sri Lanka at Indore towards the end of 2017.
ELVIN LEWIS – 2
The West Indies batsman has fast developed a reputation of being a fearsome striker of the ball ever since his introduction to international cricket in 2016.
In just over a year, the Trinidad-born man has registered two T201 tons, both of them coming against India. The first came in August 2016 at the United States where Lewis powered his way to a 49-ball 100.
The second was even more destructive and came at Kingston in July 2017. The left-handed batsman hit 12 sixes and six boundaries in an unbeaten 125 off just 66 deliveries.
COLIN MUNRO – 3
Munro was already heralded for great things in the format when he made his debut for New Zealand towards the end of 2012. However, he had to wait until 2017 before registering his maiden ton. It came against Bangladesh in January last year as he helped himself to a 54-ball 101 at the Bay Oval.
His second ton came in the tour of India in a powerful 58-ball 109 at Rajkot in November 2017. He has carried over his great form of 2017 into the New Year with his latest ton against the West Indies once again coming at the Bay Oval.
He hit 10 sixes in a 53-ball 104 which helped New Zealand register 243-5 in their 20 overs.