CENTURION – Virat Kohli has been determined to maintain the ‘Good Vibes Only’ attitude in spite of his side being 1-0 down in the three-match Sunfoil Test series.
Faf du Plessis looked and sounded less than enamoured with the appearance of the pitch here ahead of the second Test beginning on Saturday: “It looks browner than I thought it would be,” mused the South African captain.
“There is a thick layer of brown grass, and it’s not something we are used to seeing here. So that is something of the unknown for us, and we’ll see how it plays in the next five days.”
His counterpart on the other hand, never mind being nonplussed about the surface, seemed downright pleased.
“It looks like a really lively pitch. We expected it that way; in fact we wanted it that way,” said Kohli.
If the captains’ moods on the eve of this second Test were a reflection of the atmosphere in the respective camps, then everything with India appears to be just hunky-dory.
Du Plessis appeared weighed down. Perhaps the pitch is not to his liking or maybe there’s just a little irritation brought about by having to spend another few days musing over the composition of his starting team.
South Africa’s captain and the coach Ottis Gibson have waved the banner for aggression and positivity, and in that regard, it would mean sticking with the structure of six front-line batsmen, four seamers and the spin of Keshav Maharaj that won them the first Test.
The hot temperatures being forecast for the duration of the second Test, coupled with his immense skill, means Maharaj must start.
Proteas slips cordon; Amla, Du Plessis and Elgar (Morris at gully). AB just watching on, perhaps still protecting that forefinger he busted catching Pandya on Monday. pic.twitter.com/WoBrVAMpaR
So, with Dale Steyn out of the series, which seamer to choose then? Chris Morris, erratic with the ball, but capable with the bat – and given South Africa were bowled out for 130 in their last innings, that will be an important consideration.
Duanne Olivier, strong and quick, but not an enormous threat, or Lungi Ngidi, who bowled a thunderous spell at training on Thursday, with Du Plessis and Gibson watching closely.
Du Plessis admitted it was the first time he’d seen Ngidi bowl in the flesh. “I was very impressed with his bowling, he bowls a heavy ball, and there’s a bright future for him.”
Whether that future is now and a spot in the starting team this morning, Du Plessis wouldn’t say.
He did mention however that South African cricket and him in particular needed to take great care with the country’s premier fast bowlers, given the amount of cricket that’s still ahead of them this season.
“I have an eye on the future, there’s a lot of Test cricket coming up – these two Tests against India and then the series against Australia.
“As I’ve said very often, the success of our Test team is highly dependent on the fast bowlers we have in our armoury.”
Kohli’s not free of selection headaches either, but he appeared delighted that a variety of options were open to him.
If Ajinkya Rahane doesn’t play it would be a very foolish step on the touring team’s part, and that’s regardless of whether it comes at the expense of or in addition to Rohit Sharma in the middle-order.
It was India’s batting that let them down badly at Newlands and is the area most in need of strengthening.
Having six front-line batsmen instead of the five they played in Cape Town is surely the way to go for them.
In addition, Shikhar Dhawan’s problems with the short ball means KL Rahul should be given an opportunity.
Kohli said his team would be better off for its experience in Cape Town, and he again underlined the importance of a positive mindset.
“There are other pitches around the world that bounce, but here the bounce is steep, even off a length,” the Indian captain remarked.
“Those are things you must mentally tune yourself to get over and adjust to. With the experience we had in the first game, we are much better prepared to counter (South Africa) in this Test.”
Squads For Centurion
South Africa (from): Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Morné Morkel, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo.
India (from): Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Wriddiman Saha, Ravi Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Parthiv Patel, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravi Jadeja.
* Play is scheduled to start at 10am.