Friday, December 31, 2010

Indian batsmen under pressure to get a historic overseas series win in Newlands against the South African pacers.

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India go into the decider 3rd test match against South Africa at the Newlands ground, Capetown day after tomorrow backed by a convincing win two days back at Durban riding on Laxman's confident 96 in the second innings.
Newlands, one of the 25 cricket-grounds(including an oval at a local university &  a rugby ground) in Cape Town, is said to traditionally favour batsmen who can stroke well on a "tennis-ball-bounce" pitch. However it is said to provide sufficient assistance to the spinners in  later stages. The Indian team , whose batting in Centurion & Durban against the pace attack of Proteans led by Steyn has often looked fragile in the early overs and sometimes also during the close of play , will be under some sort of dilemma to include a second spinner Ojha along with Bhajji in place of the Ishant Sharma, whose outing till now has been ordinary, to say the least. But most probably, the management will like to go with the winning combination from Durban hoping that the momentum will carry Indian through.
Past records at Newlands show South Africa, since their readmission 18 years back, have lost only 3 of the 21 matches played here and all of them against the Australians. They have not lost a test match here since May 2006 and inspite of the assistance to the spinners, pacemen like Steyn,Pollock, Nel & Ntini have won 4 matches for the Proteans. Kumble in 2007 took a haul of 4 wickets but he bowled twice the average number of overs  bowled by  rest of the Indian bowlers. Slow bowlers like Bravo have performed well here and hence Indian team should probably give Shehwag & Tendulkar a bit of bowling practice at the nets and hope that Ishant will keep his line & length intact throughout while using his cutters sparingly but thoughtfully. But more importantly it is time for all the top 6 of the Indian batting line up to strike form simultaneously on a pitch that favours them and not be afraid to give it back to Steyn & Morkel in equal measures.
For Dhoni, it will be a historic moment , if he can lead his team to the first ever series victory in South Africa and end the season as number one in test cricket. He has been getting out in the eighties and the nineties and time has come for him to score a ton. Maybe shifting Dhoni up in place of Pujara, whose performances have not yet measured up to his much-hyped "potential," could give the Indian captain more number of overs to keep the fire burning. Graeme Smith , who is smarting from the recent defeat and his lacklustre display with the bat, will be happy to gun for a big score at a ground, which has given him plenty of runs always. Smith will also be under pressure to get in young pacer Parnell in place of Tsotsobe and hope that the pace-trio stretch themselves a bit more to get the Indians' on the back foot with their snorters and short-ones.

All in all, 2011 should start with an exciting test at Newlands between the two top test teams and although all indications point to a draw, Indian batsmen need to live up to the halo  that surrounds them and not rest the blame solely on the bolwers, like they did at the Centurion after the innings-defeat in the first test.

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