Third time the charm for SA?

Ravichandran Ashwin will play a vital role when India take on South Africa in the third Test. AFP

The 2-0 scoreline favouring India in the ongoing three-match series was never in great doubt. In the final Test in Ranchi starting here at the JSCA International Stadium complex from Saturday, South Africa stare at a difficult task of stopping this prediction from coming to pass: a 3-0 clean sweep by the hosts.

Right from the first day of the first game in Visakhapatnam, the Indians haven’t allowed the Proteas to settle. At every turn of both the games, India have thrown fresh challenges at their opposition. It isn’t only the customary spin threat that has troubled the visitors. Pacers -- Mohammed Shami in the first Test and Umesh Yadav in the second - have called the shots against the inexperienced South Africa batsmen.

Kohli’s men haven’t put a foot wrong. If a young opener in Mayank Agarwal has performed fearlessly to make a big statement, comeback men in Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha have also latched on to their chances to hand their opposition a lesson. If anything, South Africa should try to emulate the team work displayed by India.

Faf du Plessis and Co can take a leaf out of Australia’s fight in the previous Test here two years ago. Despite facing two world class spinners in R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Australia had batted out the final day to pull off an improbable draw. While Steve Smith was in a zone, what stood out was the courageous display from young batsmen like Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw at the face of adversity.

For South Africa, the youngsters have failed to put their hands up and respond to different scenarios. The likes of Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram and Theunis de Bruyn have had a torrid time with the bat. To make matters worse, the seniors have been far from inspiring. Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, two batsmen tipped to take South Africa forward after the era of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, do not have scores that will lift the confidence of the team.

Kagiso Rabada has been a big disappointment. After Dale Steyn’s exit, South Africa expect the 24-year-old to take up the mantle of pace bowling. But the right-armer will have to find ways to be a strike bowler on unhelpful surfaces as well. Averaging a lowly 50.00, Rabada has just four wickets from two games. While he has looked slightly threatening when there is a small window of help in the morning, Rabada will be eyeing to be more effective with the old ball.

India have performed like the number one Test side in the world. A team with a reputation of going for the kill in every game, India won’t let South Africa breathe easy. Points for the World Test Championship (WTC) will push the hosts further to wrap up the series 3-0. A win here will keep India on top of the WTC with 240 points from five games.

Meanwhile, Du Plessis will hope for some luck with the toss on a surface that he feels will assist spinners. “The wicket will spin. I have looked at the pitch and it’s a different colour. It’s obviously that dark, dry hardness to the surface, so I think reverse swing and spin will play a factor in this Test match. And as for toss, I will probably send someone else for it. My record so far hasn’t been great. If we put big runs on the board, it’s an ideal start,” said the skipper at the pre-match press conference. 

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