Stumps on the second day and definitely the day and the session belongs to South Africa despite India finishing with two wickets. Too many runs on the board already as South Africa started with a lead of 77 which reads 142 now with the final score being 65/2 after 20 overs. Rabada and Amla are the not our batsmen with Amla finishing on 4 and Rabada on 2
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While the South Africans trained in the morning session on Thursday, Virat Kohli and his boys were expected to hit the nets in the afternoon session at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town to give finishing touches to their preparations going into the first Test of the three-match series starting on Friday. But surprisingly, the boys decided to give the training a miss with only the team management dropping by to take a look at the wicket. Speaking to CricketNext, bowling coach Bharat Arun sounded pretty confident and said the team was in a good zone and had the chance of writing history."The boys are in a good space and the wicket looks good. We have bowlers who can pick 20 wickets in a Test match and that makes me excited. The boys have a chance to create history here as no Indian team has managed to win a series in South Africa," he said after taking a close look at the wicket being prepared for the opening game. Surprisingly the captain's conference was attended by India batting coach Sanjay Bangar and that led to much disappointment in the South African media as they expected Virat Kohli to address the press conference on the eve of the game. The Indians have generally taken it easy on the eve of a game, having optional training, but to see the skipper also avoid the conference was something that the Indian media is not unaware of. Former skipper MS Dhoni had once sent Ishant Sharma to attend the pre-match presser at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. But on foreign soil the Indians are generally more disciplined in their approach. It is either a case of being audacious or disrespectful. Speaking at the pre-match conference, batting coach Bangar said the team wasn't too bothered about talks surrounding the wicket and the boys wore a confident look. "We are very very confident about our preparation because we got four-five days here but out of those days we made sure we got plenty out of it. And all the boys are in a positive state of mind," he said. Asked if India would play five bowlers, Bangar said: "Well, more or less that has been the pattern for the last 24 months or so wherein the team management has made the choices about the team composition, and whenever the wicket suits, if it’s a bowling-friendly track then obviously we might go with four bowlers and if the conditions are perceived to be batting-friendly we might opt for five bowlers. So that’s been case right through the last 24 months and I don’t think it will be anything different here." Talking about the idea of playing a third seamer, Bangar sounded optimistic. "Yeah, definitely. All of them have got enough experience under their belt. We have got Ishant Sharma who probably is having his third tour of South Africa and all the bowlers have been rotated really well keeping into account the work loads that they are going to encounter here. So, if you see the consistency that they have displayed in the home season where they bowled on pretty flat conditions and made sure that they gave the support that was required for the spinners on home soil. They have built a great sense of discipline in their bowling and I am pretty sure that that discipline will help us in maintaining the pressure on opposition batsmen," he said. Batting long hours as top quality South Africa bowlers keep at it will be a challenge for the Indian batsmen and Bangar sounded excited at the prospect. "It is a Teat match and it is no different from any other match that we play wherein the opposition skill set are taken into account. What we really focus on our own inward processes, how our mental approach is, how our mindset is in terms of batting rhythm where we stand. So the opposition doesn’t really matter nor do the conditions matter. What we are feeling as a batting group is what matters and we work towards achieving that sort of level that we desire to," he explained. Asked how he assessed the conditions, Bangar said: "As of now the conditions we found, we expect the ball to seam around a bit on day one. On days two and three, they are going to be very good batting conditions. We will take into consideration the extent of moisture tomorrow on the surface and we will take it from there." Asked Who assesses the pitch best, Bangar said: "You cannot pinpoint a particular individual but Ravi has been there for such a long period of time. He has a wealth of experience, not only in playing 80 Tests but also as a broadcaster for 25-30 years. So he has seen a lot of cricket and his experience is really vital in making decisions." Both Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were seen having a long knock on Wednesday along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya. Asked about the playing XI, Bangar refused to divulge much. "Again, it all depends on the team composition. All of them are batting really well. Rohit on the back of his performances across formats, so all of them are in with a chance of playing. It boils down to the team balance and composition and we will take a call on the morning of the match who will get a nod," he signed off.
South Africa Preview:
Having trained in the afternoon on the last two days, Faf du Plessis and his boys trained in the morning on Thursday as they geared up for the opening Test between India and South Africa at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town from Friday. After long sessions on the centre wicket on Tuesday and Wednesday, the boys took to the practice wickets adjacent to the ground on Thursday. It was more about keeping it light for the South African boys as they started with a football session to warm-up and having had a good game, they took to fielding drills, even as du Plessis worked with the physio, doing a bit of stretching and checking how his back is holding up, having missed the one-off Test against Zimbabwe. After the fielding drills, the boys took to the nets and the bowlers were given some rest as they have a job at hand starting Friday. The net session saw the batsmen use the net bowlers and the bowling machine as the likes of Dean Elgar also took some throw-downs along with Hashim Amla. Interestingly, all-rounder Chris Morris was seen having a long session with bat in hand. If that is any indication to go by, the all-rounder could well be a part of the playing XI, providing back-up to the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel. Dale Steyn is no longer the first-choice pacer that he used to be and it could well be a case of him having to make way for the younger brigade. Even though the rest of the bowlers had an off-day of sorts, Keshav Maharaj had a long session next to the match-wicket as Rabada later joined him, bowling off a shortened run-up. Speaking to the media on the eve of the game, du Plessis said he didn't look at Virat Kohli as an individual and it was about playing against India. "I see South Africa against India, I don’t see a rivalry between us. We don’t look at Virat. He doesn’t get more time than any of the other batters. He is a very good player. His stats don’t lie. I am not going to tell you what the plans are. We are hoping we can put some pressure on him. If we can keep him quiet, we have a much better chance," he said. While captains get irritated talking about the wicket, du Plessis said he is enjoying it. "I enjoy talking about the pitch. I like the fact that there is some sort of preference that we can try to get an advantage (from). I think the groundsman has 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. "You rock up and have to make decisions on the day. Some guys don’t even look at the pitch because there’s so much information that can go on in your head which is unnecessary. Obviously for a captain it’s important that you have all that information ready because you want to make the right decisions," he said. Sides have not travelled well in recent times and the skipper said: "I think India was extreme conditions. We found that very challenging. England was challenging as well but I think that came down to personnel - we lost two very important members of our bowling attack. If you lose one or two of Rabada, Steyn, Morkel or Philander it’s a very difficult to replace those because with Test cricket you need consistent skill. But in general there is a trend where teams are struggling away from home and we are very proud of our record away from home."
The Day 1 of the first Test between India and South Africa will be played on January 5.It will be played at the Newlands Cricket Stadium in Cape Town and the live broadcast will be shown on Sony Ten Network, starting 2 PM. The match can be streamed online on Sony Liv.com. For live scores, updates, and analysis, you can follow our live blog on cricketnext.com.
Watch the Live Streaming of the Test here.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Parthiv Patel.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Deal Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyne, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo.