The recently concluded first Test between India and South Africa may have ended in a thrilling draw but the performance of the Indian team has taken everybody by surprise, even the Indians themselves. After a meek surrender in the ODI series and with hardly any match practice to face the rampaging South African pacers, the way the Indian side fought to draw from a once winning position is not only a positive sign but also suggests that series is everything but open and could go anybody’s way after the 2nd Test.
The way some of the players have stood up to the responsibility clearly suggests that the Indians have got it right and Durban could well end India’s long wait for a series win in South Africa.
Here are five reasons why Indians have their noses up in front before the series decider and why they could clinch the Durban tie to pocket the series.
1) Leaving balls outside the off stump
The key to facing any good attack is patience. The bouncy and pacey South African pitches require even more of that quality. The T20 and ODI expert Indian batsmen have always shown to like going after the bowlers and counter attacking as their mantra. While this may work in lesser conditions, with the likes of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander bowling to them, spending time in the middle is a must and that is what the Indians did beautifully. Hardly any balls outside the off stump were poked at, something which destroyed the opposition’s game plan. They were ready to leave and get in and that made sure that the Indians managed to put runs on the board.
2) Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara
These two players are occupying the spots once adorned by Rahul Dravid, the Wall, and the Master Blaster, Sachin Tendulkar, and they have proven that they are the truly deserving heirs to them. Virat Kohli, with a magnificent century and a near miss in the 2nd innings, and Cheteshwar Pujara, with a mammoth 153 in the 2nd innings, have been rock solid and have held the Indian middle order. Their fighting partnership in the 2nd Innings set up India in a winning position and they would be looking to do something similar in the upcoming match.
3) The off form and injury of Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel
Before the Test series, these three players were the marked ones in the Indians team’s plans to contain the South Africans. Hashim Amla came into the series as the highest run getter in Tests in the year 2013 while Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel had a phenomenal run and picked up a lots of wickets against all oppositions.
However, with Morkel injured, Steyn carrying a niggle and Amla in poor form, the Indians may see themselves facing a heavily depleted South African side in terms of form and fitness and thus would be hopeful of putting in a winning performance.
4) The resurgence of the Indian pace attack
Bowling has been India’s weak spot over the last few years but with the return of Zaheer Khan, India, now, has a fine blend of experience and pace in their current bowling line up. The trio of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami bowled with a lot of heart and pace in order to give India a crucial lead and were very impressive in the first innings.
They would consider themselves unlucky for not picking up more wickets in the 2nd innings as a lot of chances went begging owing to edged falling short of the fielders. Nevertheless, all the three bowlers picked up more than 5 wickets each in the match and thus would be going into the Durban match with a lot of confidence, something that the Indian team would be only too happy about.
India came into the first Test as the underdogs and almost walked away with the match. This performance would have sky rocketed the confidence of the Indian team. They played quality cricket for most of the match and dominated most of the sessions in the game. The fact that they were able to counter the opposition’s game plans and control the match is an indicator of things going their way and with majority of the players in fine form, the Indian team would be raring to go and put in another formidable show.
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