Indian captain Virat Kohli wants his batsmen to “show intent” when they come up against South Africa’s fast bowlers again in the second Test starting at Centurion on Saturday.
“You can’t just stand there and take whatever is coming your way and not have intent,” Kohli said after his team were beaten by 72 runs in the first Test in Cape Town.
“You might get out but it’s important to keep coming at the bowler and making them feel, ‘if you make an error I am going to score.”
With conditions at Centurion again likely to favour fast bowling, the problem for India is not just how they should execute Kohli’s strategy – but who should do it.
No Indian top-order batsman made more than 28 in either innings in Cape Town. The only two scores above 30 were 93 by Hardik Pandya in the first innings and 37 by Ravichandran Ashwin in the second.
Pandya and Ashwin were batting at number seven and eight respectively, which suggests India have enough depth in their batting order – if their top-order players can get themselves through the new ball.
At least two batting positions will be debated as the tourists seek a way to play themselves back into the three-Test series.
Left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan fell to short-pitched deliveries in both innings and there is an argument for Lokesh Rahul to take his place, while Ajinkya Rahane must be a contender to replace Rohit Sharma at number five.
Kohli said the selection for Cape Town was based on form. Rahane had a dismal recent series against Sri Lanka but has shown the ability to score runs away from home.
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 11, 2018
On India’s 2013/14 tour of South Africa Rahane scored 47, 15, 51 not out and 96 in the two Test matches and looked one of the best-equipped Indian batsmen against pace.
South Africa, meanwhile, look set to once again pick a four-pronged pace attack, although they have to replace the injured Dale Steyn.
There are three candidates — two out-and-out pace specialists in Duanne Olivier and Lungi Ngidi or Chris Morris who has batting skills as well as the ability to bowl at more than 140 kmh.
Both teams showed batting fragility in Cape Town, with India’s pace bowlers showing they too could take advantage of helpful conditions.
AB de Villiers’ aggression in innings of 65 and 35 was a key factor for South Africa. It is that sort of intent that both teams will be seeking in what promises to be another action-paced Test.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris or Duanne Olivier or Lungi Ngidi, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan or Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma or Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
Umpires: Michael Gough (ENG), Paul Reiffel (AUS)
TV umpire: Richard Kettleborough (both ENG)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)
England’s five-match one-day series against Ashes conquerors Australia gets under way in Melbourne on Sunday.
Here, Press Association Sport assesses five key areas of debate.
CAN ENGLAND DISMISS STEVE SMITH WITH A WHITE BALL?
Having found the red Kookaburra no more use than a bar of soap when it came to getting out the Australia captain during the Test series, England will be hoping the change of hue brings a change of fortunes. Having averaged 137.40 in the Ashes, it can hardly get any worse, but England skipper Eoin Morgan has already suggested his opposite number is just one of many threats. “I don’t think he is the key wicket,” he said. “He is an unbelievable player and his run of form has been freakish, but there are loads of other impact players in their side.”
WOOD TO MAKE HIS MARK
Durham paceman Mark Wood is an alluring figure for English cricket fans starved of pace during recent years. He is an effervescent presence in the middle, generating venomous deliveries off a short, staccato run and asking questions many of his compatriots simply cannot. But his international CV is a frustratingly slender one, hampered by a catalogue of injuries. Now fully fit, hopes are high he can leave his mark on the Aussies in their own back yard.
England appear to have drawn a line under Adil Rashid’s Test career, with Liam Dawson and Mason Crane both selected to partner Moeen Ali since he last appeared. Positioning the Yorkshire leg-spinner as a one-day specialist is fine, as long he understands and appreciates the decision. If he does not, England might soon find one of their most reliable performers in the shorter formats allows questions of confidence or technical doubts to slip in.
SILVERWOOD CHECKS IN
The arrival of Chris Silverwood as fast bowling coach offers plenty of reason for interest and intrigue. Not only do England’s seamers have a permanent specialist to bounce off after the vacancy was only partially filled during the Ashes – initially by Shane Bond and then, improbably, by Paul Collingwood – they also have a newly influential figure around the dressing room. Having won the county title with Essex last year he comes with considerable coaching pedigree and is being hotly tipped to take the top job when Trevor Bayliss leaves in September 2019. It will be fascinating to see him work with the group.
FOOT ON THROAT OR FOOT OFF GAS
Marcus Stoinis created a vivid image when he said the aim was the keep Australia’s foot on England’s throat in the one-day series, but there is plenty of precedent for sides slacking off once the main business has been settled. Australia have shown intent by keeping so many Test winners involved, but will they be able to keep their intensity up or will they go the way of their 2007 predecessors, who were upset by the likes of Paul Nixon and Mal Loye? By resting Josh Hazlewood for the first ODI and Pat Cummins for the second, there are already signs the artillery will not be as intense this month.
After being on the receiving end of a 72-run defeat in the opening Test against South Africa, India pacer Jasprit Bumrah is staying positive as we head towards the second Test at Centurion starting on Saturday.
“Confidence is not dented after one match. If it happens, then you don’t deserve to play. Learn from the mistake you made and go forward. There is not a single cricketer who has not made a mistake,” the youngster told reporters after India’s practice session on Thursday.
Bumrah, who made his Test debut for the country in the loss at Newlands, was a touch expensive in the first innings before coming back strongly in the second to pick up three wickets in South Africa’s collapse on day four
He picked up the wicket of AB De Villiers in the first innings to register his maiden Test scalp but Bumrah was not willing to term it as a dream debut.
“It was not a dream debut. I was happy with whatever I learnt from that match. As a bowler you look to get the first wicket early and I got AB de Villiers,” he said.
“It was a happy moment, and from there on, we took a lot more wickets. As a bowler, my motto is not to get too excited and not to get too down after every match. I want to take confidence in to the next match,” Bumrah added.
Playing in his first overseas Test tour, the Mumbai-born man explained that his experience in the first Test had been a big learning curve.
“It’s always challenging whenever you come to a new country, the wickets are different, the weather is different. You get a fair idea of the lines and lengths to bowl. You need to adapt. I never go by perceptions,” he stated.
“In the first innings we thought we bowled a little fuller than the normal here because in India we have to pitch fuller to get the swing and to get the batsmen on to the front foot. Over here, there is bounce, so there is a little bit of difference in length.
“We analysed that, adapted in the second innings and were able to create pressure,” he explained.
Proteas batsman Aiden Markram meanwhile said that runs will be up for grabs at the Centurion wicket if history was anything to go by.
“Usually it’s a good batting wicket here, there have been some big scores. But how they have prepared it this time I’m not too sure. I’m pretty sure they are going to prepare it similar to last week, maybe not as extreme,” he said on the sidelines of South Africa’s net session.
Markram was wary of India’s quality going into the second Test and expects a big response from the No1 ranked side in the world.
“There’s a reason why they are the No. 1 team in the world — they have quality players in all departments. They tick all the boxes and they have come here to compete, which is great,” he remarked.
South Africa lead the three-match series 1-0 as we head into the second Test at the SuperSport Park at Centurion starting on Sunday.