India have been unbeatable at home for quite some time now. Since 2013, the Asian giants have lost only 1 Test in 30 Tests. However, that rare defeat came when in Pune — the venue of the 2nd Test between India and South Africa — in 2017.
Steve Smith scored a second innings hundred. Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon outshone India’s lethal spin twins Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin to hand India a crushing 333-run defeat.
The decision to prepare a rank-turner backfired. India were made to come back from behind and beat Australia in the hugely-exciting 4-match series.
Can South Africa seek inspiration from what Steve Smith’s men did to India at their own backyard?
South Africa will be battling to stay alive in the series when the 2nd Test gets underway at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune on Thursday. They were expected to be rolled over after India made 502 for 7 declared in the 1st innings of the Visakhapatnam Test last week. However, the visitors showed fight and reduced the deficit to less than 100 only to suffer a collapse in the 2nd innings and concede a 1-0 lead to India in the 3-match series.
Pune pitch has been under the spotlight in the lead up to the 2nd Test. One thing is for sure — India will not risk playing on a rank-turner once again despite South Africa not possessing the same quality that the visiting Australian team had in their spin department in 2017.
There was reportedly a tinge of green on the MCA pitch a day ahead of the 2nd Test.
Moreover, Virat Kohli’s men will be keen to prove a point in Pune and banish the memories of the unforeseen defeat from 2017.
The odds are stacked heavily in favour of India. They have two world class spinners who seem to have just warmed up to their partnership after not playing together for nearly a year. They have a newly-promoted opener who is hungrier than ever for runs, especially in red-ball cricket. They have a fast bowler who refuses to go away even if he is asked to bowl on a wearing 5th-day wicket in the sub-continent.
And they have a captain who believes in hitting the refresh button before the start of every single Test. The World Test Championship and the points up for grabs in it has only made him even more focused.
South Africa are certainly staring at an uphill task. As conceded by their captain Faf du Plessis at the pre-match press conference, South Africa need to find a bowling attack that is capable of bowling India out twice in a Test. The one that they had fielded in Visakhapatnam was a big letdown when it came to putting pressure on the mighty Indian batting unit.
And more importantly, their batsmen need to figure out a way to keep the scoreboard moving without losing wickets at regular intervals against India’s quality spin attack.
Faf du Plessis said he wanted his batsmen to find the right balance between attack and defence. Easier said than done, the South African skipper added. He is spot on.