“Following the one-sided Ashes, in the cricketing world, there is a high expectation from this South Africa-India series in which the top two Test teams are locking horns. Well, if both teams play to their potentials, we are in for a mouth-watering contest.”
Cape Town — the Southern tip of Africa, also known as the ‘Cape of good hopes’.
Well, this time India have certainly arrived in South Africa – a country where they have only won two Tests out of 17 attempts across six tours – with a lot of good hopes. And the three-Test series starts right at the lap of the Table mountains.
While talking about cricket in South Africa, the first thing which comes to our mind is – the extreme playing conditions. Wickets offering plenty of pace, bounce and seam movement. For any Asian team, these are considered as alien conditions. But on this occasion, it looks like the 22-yard is expected to be a little less challenging, least in Cape Town.
It has been a dry summer in this part of the world and the entire Western Province including Cape Town is experiencing some serious drought. The situation is so bad that the local authorities have to implement restrictions on water usage – 87 litres per person per day.
However, despite the lack of moisture in the air, the groundsmen at Newlands have done a fantastic job to prepare a greenish looking wicket for the first Test which starts on Friday (January 5). Though it is not exactly a bowler’s paradise, but at least for the first couple of days, there is expected to be a significant sideways movement and bounce for the fast bowlers and as the match progresses it will become more batting friendly. Though the bounce won’t be as steep as we see in the venues which are situated in the highland, like Johannesburg or Pretoria.
Meanwhile, South African skipper Faf du Plessis, who is keen on having the home advantage (like India had in the 2015-16 series) rates this condition as ‘nothing extreme’. According to him, the hosts wanted to eliminate the spin factor and this Newlands strip is perfect for that.
— SA Cricket magazine (@SACricketmag) January 4, 2018
“I like the fact that there is some sort of preference that we can try to get an advantage [from]. I think the groundsmen have done a fantastic job with the heat. The wicket looks good like it’s going to be a good cricket wicket. Nothing extreme. It looks like it’s going to be exactly what we wanted.”
“In a perfect world, it will be a quick wicket that nips around a bit. We also want to try and eliminate spin as much as possible,” he further added. “When we played Sri Lanka here last time it was a really good wicket. You don’t want excessive seam movement because that brings both bowling attacks into the game. We feel with our seam resources, on a wicket that has some pace and bounce, we can exploit some of those areas in their batting line.”
With the likes of Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn around, South Africa indeed have the attack to trouble India, even on a not so extreme wicket. However, it will be interesting to notice what combination the hosts will select. If it is a 3-1 (three seamers and one spinner Kesab Maharaj) than there are high chances that Steyn, despite all his experience and impressive track record against India, might not be preferred in the starting eleven. This shows the depth in quality in the South African seam attack.
Thus, the Indian batting will anyway have their task cut out.
While talking with the insiders, one gets a feeling that the new ball is going to be the key here. Hence, the batsmen, who can show application and survive the new ball, can get big scores. Also, being an open ground, the breeze will allow the ball to move sideways. It is expected to be an overcast day on Friday with a high of 25 degrees, perfect weather for swing (and reverse swing with the old ball) bowling which will aid the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Mohammed Shami.
Compared to other South African venues, Cape Town is considered as a high scoring ground. The common trend over here is to bat first and I don’t think there will be an exception this time.
Nevertheless, following the one-sided Ashes, in the cricketing world, there is a high expectation from this series in which the top two Test teams are locking horns. Well, if both teams play to their potentials, we are in for a mouth-watering contest.