Team India justified the title of ‘Boxing Day Test” by landing a real hard punch on South Africa in the first Test of the series and are just waiting to get on with their course to add a new chapter in the new year to their ever so growing legacy.
Between two Boxing Day Tests, they have had remarkable success and their mastery of the format has been exemplary. If anything that the year 2021 showed about them, it went established their dominance in the format and over other teams that were always expected out of them.
They were always a slow-starter, at least on the overseas tours but in the year they showed that they have become a side who have covered all their bases and they don’t put the foot off the pedal to allow the opposition any chance.
They were not favourites to start the series against South Africa but that was only due to their inglorious past in the country. All the honest followers of the game would have expected them to be a superior side than Dean Elgar’s side in the three-match long series, and like they have been doing in the past year or so, they emerged superior side over the course of four days of the Tests.
Former England skipper and now a venerable voice of the game, Michael Atherton rates Test cricket with India as an arm-wrestling where he says the men in blue keep on fighting bout by bout before the opponent run out of will and ammunition and then the Kohli-led side pounce on them to conquer the moments.
The first Test in Centurion was a highlight of those assertions about India. They were challenged by a course-correcting bowling lineup on the third day but their bowlers brought them back in the game. Then, Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma challenged them on the final day of the Test before Jasprit Bumrah found a magical delivery to end Proteas skipper’s resistance.
South Africa were in the game on many occasions but they could not defeat the Virat Kohli-led side in a long-term contest spread across various moments and situations and hence fell way short, in the end, to make the victory look like a comprehensive one for the tourists.
The fact is that they were in the game but were outclassed by a formidable opponent who have all the ammunition and they came firing all cylinders at the right time to seize their opportunities.
Now, having conquered South Africa’s fortress in Centurion, can Kohli and his men repeat their heroics at a venue where they have a commendable history to create a never-been-done-before piece of history?
India have landed their first punch on the hosts and it’s the hosts who are under pressure to respond in the series, which is quite a new phenomenon for India in Test cricket overseas. They put Australia (in 2018-19), England and now South Africa in the same situation and Dean Elgar will have his tasks cut out to rally his troops to bring their best at the Wanderers.
South Africa vs India
Match number- 02
Venue: The Wanderers, Johannersburg
Date and Time: 03 Jan to 07 Jan, 01:30 PM IST, 08:00 AM
Broadcast in India: Star Sports and Hotstar
Pitch and weather
The pitch in Centurion offered plenty of pace and bounce to the fast bowlers and Wanderers has always been one of the fastest venues in South Africa. The trend is likely to sustain during the second Test of the series as South Africa wouldn’t be comfortable in playing on a flat surface because that will nullify their pacers and bring Ravichandran Ashwin into the game.
Batsmen on either side of the fence should be ready for another round of examination around the off stump and should also be ready t face the sweet chin music in the second Test. Like the first Test, the team that will score most runs in the first innings will have an upper hand considering variable bounce on offer on the final days of the game.
The weather god is unlikely to be any kinder than they were in Centurion with three of the five days of the game expecting to be affected by persistent spells of rain. The first Test would have been impacted by the rain if not for the bowling-friendly surface and the second Test should also offer the same sort of contest between bat and ball.
South Africa played Marco Jansen in the first Test in a move that appeared the Proteas preferred him over Duanne Olivier but the clarifications came about his unavailability later on. It is expected that the right-arm pacer would make his way back into the playing XI but Jansen could well have done enough both with the bat and ball to complicate things for the hosts.
They could very well go for the route other sides have opted against India on seaming tracks and drop Keshav Maharaj to accommodate Olivier while keeping an eye on Jansen’s control as a left-arm pacer. He created a lot of difficulties for the batsmen on a bouncy surface at the SuperSport Park and with the surface at Wanderers likely to throw up a similar challenge, it would be tempting to retain him for the second Test.
If they don’t want to drop Maharaj, Olivier could also come in for Wiaan Mulder, who doesn’t have bright performance in either department to be confident of his chances to play the second Test.
Quinton de Kock announced an abrupt retirement from the format but his decision is unlikely to create any sort of difference to the Proteas side as he was anyways supposed to miss the last two Tests of the series. Kyle Verreynne should wear the wicketkeeping gloves in his absence.
Dean Elgar (C), Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne (WK), Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Keshav Maharaj
India have the same conundrum going into the second Test that they had to deal with before the start of the first Test and it revolves around the perpetual question over the form and length of rope given to the duo of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.
Pujara got a golden duck in the first innings and did not shine in the second innings either while Rahane appeared to be in brilliant touch with the bat in both innings before getting out in manners which have become a frustrating trend of his career in the last few years.
India did not opt for an in-form Shreyas Iyer and a prepared Hanuma Vihari and backed the experienced duo to their jobs. Now, they chose to continue putting their faith in them, dropping them from the next game would be an inconsistent selection call.
However, Dravid has hinted of some “tough conversation” and they could find themselves warming the bench. Rahane seemed to be in good touch and could well have done enough to sustain himself in the race while the time is running rapidly out of Pujara’s hands.
Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah
CE Fantasy XI
Rishabh Pant, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Aiden Markram, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Kagiso Rabada, Jasprit Bumrah, Duanne Olivier
Captain – KL Rahul
Vice-Captain – Dean Elgar