Proteas, India gear up for ’biggest Test match in years’
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Cape Town — To all and sundry, the Proteas have looked in increasing turmoil the past couple of years. Indeed, taking into account the length of time since South Africa last won a significant Test match, let alone their well-documented off field problems, the rainbow seemed far off in the horizon.
But it’s 2022. A year of new beginnings and fresh starts and where they miraculously find themselves in the uncharted waters of being unbeaten for the year thus far after a memorable victory over the World No 1 Test side India last week at the Wanderers.
And were it not for these confusing Covid-19 times that we live in where thousands upon thousands can flood Cape Town’s prime beaches over the festive season, but none can attend sports matches bar the elite few of the corporate suites, then all roads would indeed have led to the splendour of Newlands for the series decider starting this Tuesday morning.
It’s been an engrossing series that has been set up for the perfect ending. India will have their talismanic leader Virat Kohli back at the helm to drive them towards a potentially historic victory, but the Proteas have an even greater source of motivation.
It is often said that respect needs to be earned and the home team certainly regained some of theirs at the Bullring. The world once again knows that “Protea Fire” still burns strong within the home dressing room and led by their very own irrepressible skipper Dean Elgar who showed they will endure all manner of punches to entrench South Africa’s position amongst the top tier nations of the world.
A victory here under the watch of the glorious Table Mountain over the course of the next five days would be the stuff of legend. With both teams fighting for their legacy — albeit for contrasting reasons — nothing less than another titanic arm wrestle is expected where neither team will take a backwards step — or can afford one.
“I think this Test match is the biggest we’ve had in 10-15 years,” Elgar told reporters at the pre-match press briefing on Monday. “It would certainly be the biggest win of my career thus far. I think from a players group of view it would be massive for us. We have put in so much hard work the last few months.
“We have actually been playing a lot of good cricket but a lot of things have just not gone our way because you need some momentum on your side. We have been doing everything right.
“But I think what we have done in the last Test speaks massive amounts for this playing group. Leading into this Test we know we can’t look too far ahead because that’s when you lose the plot. For us, winning the series 2-1 would be huge, beating the World No 1 even if its in your backyard will mean a massive amount for this group going forward.”
Kohli’s passionate presence at Newlands will only add fuel to the flames and his team will be ready to back up their skipper’s every move.
But Elgar, and his group of Proteas, are more than ready to step in the cauldron of Newlands to square up to their adversaries.
“Virat brings a whole different dynamic to the game. I don’t think I missed him… But potentially his team missed him no doubt from a captaincy/strategy point of view. I bring the intensity as well. Test cricket is always going to have intensity. You have to maintain that over five days,” Elgar said.
“We saw that at the Wanderers when we brought the intensity it almost flustered the Indians quite a lot and that can play in our favour and it will almost be silly for us not to replicate that and or bring even more intensity for the next game.”
The Proteas are unlikely to change their winning combination from the Wanderers, but on a wicket that will offer the slow bowlers more than on the Highveld it is expected that left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj will play a great role in proceedings having bowled just 20 overs in the series thus far.
Likely Proteas team for Newlands:
Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier.
Start: 10:30am. TV: SS2, SABC3