CENTURION – South African captain Faf du Plessis was surprised to see brown grass on the pitch that will be used for the second Test against India, starting at SuperSport Park on Saturday.
But there were no surprises for Indian captain Virat Kohli. "It looks a really lively pitch," Kohli said at his pre-Test press conference on Friday. "We expected it and we wanted it to be that way. Both teams are into the contest and will have to play some good cricket."
Kohli made it clear he would welcome another no-holds-barred battle in conditions as tough as they were in Cape Town, where South Africa won the first Test by 72 runs.
"We were pretty happy with the wicket and the way it played in Cape Town, it gave us many opportunities to stay in the game," said Kohli. "This pitch will again test us to play our best cricket and that is something we are looking forward to."
Du Plessis said he expected pace and bounce but admitted he was not sure how the pitch would play.
"It looks browner than I thought it would be," he said. "What I got from the groundsman was that it was burnt from the heat. Last week was very hot."
Although Centurion is Du Plessis’ home ground, he said the pitch looked unusual. "There is a thick layer of brown grass so it’s not something we’re used to seeing. For us at the moment it’s unknown."
Du Plessis said he expected India to mount a strong challenge.
"India at times were really good at Newlands. There were so many ups and downs for both teams. India were in the game for 90 percent of the time. I expect they will take a lot of positives from the game and I expect another huge performance from them."
Kohli said India’s bowlers had shown their ability in Cape Town. "We’re very happy with the way the bowlers went about their business. We believe we can get them out twice again."
But the Indian batsmen needed to step up. Kohli said they had gained from their experience in Cape Town – and the mistakes they had made there. "There is no need to panic as a batting unit, we have played well for a long time – and we have played well away from home as well. We just need to apply ourselves better."
South Africa have to make at least one change following a series-ending injury to Dale Steyn.
"The team we selected last week was the right team and it worked pretty well," said Du Plessis. "We have to decide whether we go with the same balance of four seamers and a spinner or whether we go for more of an all-rounder."
Kohli was quizzed on possible changes among the batsmen. He admitted that there would be some discussion about India’s opening batting combination, which suggests that Shikhar Dhawan’s place could be in doubt after two poor dismissals against short-pitched deliveries last week.