India eye 3-0 win, SA redemption

India eye 3-0 win, SA redemption

Cricket Fourth Test : Pitch continues to hold centrestage as the final match of the series begins today at Kotla

India eye 3-0 win, SA redemption

It is an unusual sight. India have taken an assailable 2-0 lead in the series and that too against the mighty South Africa, who before coming here held an impeccable nine-year unbeaten record on foreign shores.

It should have been India’s moment of glory. Instead, the hosts couldn’t help but feel the pinch for being cornered as rank turners become the talking point of the series. In the past days, Virat Kohli and his boys had been more busy justifying their triumph and the pitches with vehemence; in some ways, may be, pleading for acceptance, too.

The mood was no different on the eve of the fourth and last Test beginning Thursday. If India would like to defy the current sentiments and prove their insatiable thirst for victory, a wounded South Africans would be seeking redemption.

The Proteas have refrained from joining the din surrounding the pitch. They are a proud side, unwilling to be seen as sore losers, and perhaps with their silence have hurt the Indians more. The hosts are left alone to fend the queries about the pitches, which gained prominence with International Cricket Council terming the surface at Nagpur, the venue of the third Test, as “poor.”

Intense atmosphere

The atmosphere is tense and frenzied at the Delhi and District Cricket Association who saved the hosting rights of the Test by the skin of their teeth. They would not want to go wrong at least with the surface. The pitch here is likely to have something for seamers because of the morning nip. However, with the team management assertive in their demand for a spinning track, there is every chance that another turner awaits the teams.
The focus, however, would be on the batting. India is a known haven for improving batting averages. This series has broken the trend. In the two Tests, there has been no century, no hundred-run partnership and only four batsmen have scored half-centuries. Batsmen have struggled against the prodigious turn, with highest innings score being 215 by India at Nagpur.

Leading the chart

India’s Murali Vijay leads the chart of run scorers. He has been the steadiest among his peers to garner 195 runs. AB de Villiers has been South Africa’s best batsman with 173 runs. The form of captains of both sides is a matter of concern but Proteas can take solace from the way Hashim Amla stuck along with Faf du Plessis during their 72-run stand in second innings in Nagpur to make the Indians sweat.

In the last two days, Kohli has spent a good amount of time in the ‘nets’ under the watchful eyes of team director Ravi Shastri, with batting coach Sanjay Bangar taking charge of the throwdowns.

Spinners naturally have dominated the series with Ravichandran Ashwin leading the pack with his 24 wickets. Ravindra Jadeja with his accuracy and attacking line would be handy here also with leg-spinner Amit Mishra adding the variety. Whether India would add extra pacer in Varun Aaron or persist with Rohit Sharma as the extra batsman is to be seen. For South Africa, Dean Elgar and Simon Harmer have been the pick of series apart from the seasoned Imran Tahir. They would again be missing Dale Steyn but pace duo of Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada have been impressive for them.

What began as an epic series, between two countries with rich history of the game, unfortunately is ending with questions raised on ethics and home advantage.
Cricket has taken the backseat during the Test series. Delhi, with a troubled past and present, ironically, is the last bastion of hope.

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