Indian cricket team is on an unfulfilled mission in South Africa. Indians are yet to win a Test series in South Africa making South Africa is the only unconquered nation for Indian team. With Virat Kohli-led Test team emerging as one of the best Indian cricket teams in the longest format has the potential to make the history happen.
Back in 2006-07, Indians got a golden opportunity when they won the first match of the three-match Test series. But then the hosts made a strong comeback and went on to win remaining two matches to end the hope for the visitors. This time, at Centurion India do have another opportunity to take a lead in the ongoing series and then eventually look for a maiden Test series win.
The situation at Centurion can end in India’s favour. Despite second day’s play being rained out, the match progressed at a good pace. India had a batting collapse on Day 3 but Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj managed to take the total to 327. Indian bowlers were on the money from the beginning. A five-wicket haul from Shami that made him the owner of 200 Test wickets, combination of Bumrah and Siraj, tactical Ravichandran Ashwin wrap things up early and South Africa were all out for 197. Temba Bavuma (52) led lower-middle order including Kagiso Rabada (25) contributed after a few quick top-order wickets.
But India still managed to maintain a lead of 130 before resuming their second innings. They did lose Mayank Agarwal within the first six overs resulting the nightwatchman Shardul Thakur to walk in towards the end of Day 3. Thakur became the first prey of Rabada on Day 4 followed by India’s first innings centurion KL Rahul being dismissed by Lungi Ngidi. But India still have a star-studded line-up waiting to increase the lead.
It was a heavy rain that abandoned the play on Day 2. With the weather forecast not look promising on the final day, the Indians must have a strategy to look for a result today itself. The focus should be to take the lead close to 300-320 to give the bowlers enough score to defend and take 10 wickets of the opponents. Time will play a vital role here for India and the batters will look to bat at a good pace. The pitch is continuously deteriorating with bounce becoming more uneven by every passing hour. However, South Africans do have a long batting line-up up to number nine and Indians would have a target in mind and also the number of overs they will need to bowl them out.
But what if the weather does not play spoilsport tomorrow? What if India cannot take all South Africa wickets today? That will give the South African batters enough time to chase down the total and eventually win the match. The Nottingham Test match this year in England was one unlucky affair for Indians. They had a similar experience during India’s tour of South Africa in 1996-97 when bad light and rain were major reasons of India losing their chance of winning the maiden Test in South Africa.