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Virat Kohli eyes fairytale finish

Published Dec 3, 2015, 7:23 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 9:18 pm IST
Battered South Africans seek redemption in final Test; Kotla turf is likely to hold up
Team Director Ravi Shastri (second from left) interacts with Team India players during a training session in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
 Team Director Ravi Shastri (second from left) interacts with Team India players during a training session in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)
New DelhiSouth Africa find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. In the last nine years and five months, they had not lost a series. Every Test nation that they visited — barring India and the UAE — was a frontier that they scaled. In those they could not conquer, they pulled off respectable draws.
Things have reversed dramatically in the sub-continent. The four-match Test series between India and World No. 1 South Africa was the talking point in world cricket and it took just seven days of action — the Mohali and Nagpur matches ended within three days — to see South Africa go down 0-2. The Bengaluru game was washed out after a day’s play.
The fourth Test that gets under way at the Kotla here on Thursday might not have any effect on the series’ result except the margin of defeat, but there is a lot for both teams to look forward to.
Virat Kohli took over from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the longer format of the game earlier this year, and a 3-0 result against the world’s best team would be a delightful entry into his Test CV. This will also be the first time that he will lead the team at his home ground, and he would be keen to finish on a high.
South Africa are the top-ranked side and it’s not without a reason. Their batting runs deep but this tour has questioned their ability to hold up on tough, and sometimes extremely trying, conditions.
This series, in fact, has opened up a debate on “how far a team can stretch the home advantage”. The rank turners at all the venues have tested the batsmen from both sides.
While South Africa have capitulated — with their batsmen lampooned for lack of technique — the hosts have only been marginally better. There has not been a single hundred in the series thus far.
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly said teams must “learn how to play spin on tracks that aid turn,” a thought that would have crossed visiting skipper Hashim Amla’s mind many times.
The pitches, in particular, have been a hot topic of discussion for everyone other than the Indian players who have defended the tracks at Mohali (first Test) and the dustbowl at Nagpur, which was ranked “poor” by the ICC.
The numbers present the real picture. Of the 49 South African wickets to have fallen so far, 47 have been snared by spinners. R. Ashwin has been the wrecker-in-chief — he has picked up 24 of those — with Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra proving able foils. 
South Africa have crossed the 200-mark in five innings just once with only two half centuries to show, that too from A.B. de Villiers. So, how will the visitors approach the Delhi Test game? Would Amla’s men experiment ahead of their upcoming England series at home or will they look to end with respect and try to narrow down the loss margin?
There is hint of the latter and given that the Kotla pitch is likely to hold up for “more than three days”, South Africa will be hoping to finish their tour with a win. For the hosts, Ashwin will be raring to add to his tally of wickets. The spinner has been almost unplayable and been at the core of India’s attack. South African pacer Dale Steyn, who suffered a groin injury during the opening Test, has been ruled out and changes are expected in the visiting XI.




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