On a long tour, teams go through varied phases, and you never quite know when the tide has turned the other way. South Africa would be experiencing something similar in the build-up to Bangalore Test. Up until the Mohali Test kicked off, they were dominant, having won the T20s and the ODIs, rather comprehensively at that. But, a spinning pitch was enough for India to reopen old wounds for South Africa. Their batsmen were completely unsettled by the pitch, as the game finished inside three days. While rain remains a threat at Bangalore, South Africa have bigger internal problems to deal with.
Their team combination has gone for a complete toss. JP Duminy and Morne Morkel missed the opening Test with injury. And while there is good news on that front for the visitors, as both will be available at Bangalore, two of their key bowlers, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, will be missing from the action. While Steyn is out of action for the second Test, with a groin injury, Philander has been ruled out of the series with torn ankle ligaments. It remains to be seen whether South Africa persist with Simon Harmer at Bangalore, or go in with Kyle Abbott.
In the batting department, a lot of focus will be on AB de Villiers, who will be turning out in his 100th Test at the venue, which is his home ground in the IPL. The versatile South African would be keen to make a mark on the special occasion. Although he did not get a big score at Mohali, he looked the most comfortable of all batsmen at the crease. It would however be interesting to observe how be tackles leggie Amit Mishra, who bowled him in both innings during the Mohali defeat.
South Africa should be worried with their batting effort in the opening Test. The opening combination with need to perform. Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl lack experience and expertise to deal with the tough conditions in India, but it will be a good learning curve for them. A lot will depend on the trio of skipper Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and de Villiers if South Africa have to fight back in the series. The form of their captain will particularly worry them, as he not only has failed to get big scores on the tour, but has also been out in bizarre ways.
India would be pleased with their victory at Mohali. But, they cannot afford to take things lightly. They had gone down to England in 2012 after having won the opening Test. Shikhar Dhawan needs to get runs after having claimed a pair at Mohali. Ajinkya Rahane too had twin failures on a spinning surface. In fact, while the spinners impressed, India’s batsmen themselves struggled on the rank turner. They would need to show better application at Bangalore, like Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara did at Mohali. Ishant Sharma would also be back following the suspension, so India’s pace attack should be bolstered.
--By A Cricket Analyst