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India look to exploit pitch in 2nd Test

cricket Updated: Apr 02, 2008 23:17 IST
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Handicapped by the absence of champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar, India go into the second cricket Test against South Africa in Ahmedabad on Wednesday hoping to exploit a track which was expected to suit the slow bowlers.

After the run glut on a placid track in Chennai, both the team will be hoping that the Motera pitch will provide some assistance to the bowlers who had a nightmarish experience in the first Test.

Although the curator has predicted a "slow and turning" surface for the match, the question is whether India have the resources to exploit the conditions with some of the key bowlers still to recover fully from injuries.

The hosts are confronted with fitness problems to some of their key men, including captain Anil Kumble, and would sorely miss Tendulkar, out with a groin injury, whose mere presence in the line-up weighs down the opposition ranks.

The fitness of Kumble, also carrying a groin niggle, and fast bowler Ishant Sharma, recovering from a bowling finger and toe injuries, will be assessed on Thursday and the team management will be hoping that both pass the fitness test.

In case they are not fit, it will further weaken India's bowling attack which is already without pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.

South Africa, on the other hand, need to find an answer quickly on how to stop Virender Sehwag from repeating his blitzkrieg of Chennai where he decimated the rival attack with his audacious stroke-play and carved out a fantastic second triple century of his career.

Not only the amount of runs, but the speed at which Sehwag scored them, provided India with a chance of forcing South Africa on their knees in the second innings but men-in-form Neil McEnzie and Hashim Amla enured that the tourists would not be cowed down to a defeat.

The visitors feel they have found a chink in the Delhi marauder's batting armour. Coach Micky Arthur pointed out that Sehwag did not play a pull shot till he reached 312 and promised to target the Indian opener with body-line attack.

"We had a look at Sehwag's fantastic innings. We saw that he played his first pull shot after scoring 312. He cuts the ball very well. We plan to target him with short balls into his body and cramp him for space and see how he takes it," Arthur said.

Planning for something and executing it are two different things and the Proteas will be hoping that their fast bowlers are able to extract enough bounce to trouble Sehwag as well as the other top-order Indian batsmen like Rahul Dravid, who notched his 25th ton at Chennai, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman too.

And like in Chennai the heat factor would be another major handicap to both the teams, and especially the touring team, though Arthur said the dry heat here was similar to what they encounter back home.

If the SA attack was ripped apart by Sehwag, the home team's attack proved equally tame on the flat track at Chennai and needs to pull up its socks here if they intend to trouble the visiting team which bats deep down up to number eight or nine.

Barring Jacques Kallis, who flopped in both the innings, the other top-order batsmen of South Africa showed good touch which would have given them a lot of confidence going into the second match.

Only Harbhajan Singh proved successful with eight wickets to his credit, but it has to be said they were taken after conceding over 100 runs in both the innings, and he also lacked adequate support from the other end.

Ishant Sharma, if pronounced fit, is bound to play as he is one Indian bowler who is capable of beating the slowness of a track with his speed in the air. In case the team decides to play him, it may be at the cost of R P Singh who looked a bit listless and not fully recovered from his injury lay-off in the first Test.

The absence of Tendulkar has given a chance to Yuvraj Singh to resurrect his stop-start Test career as he's expected to get the nod ahead of Mohammed Kaif whose break from the highest form of the game has been even longer.

The fact that Yuvraj scored a splendid 169 in the first innings of the last home Test he played, against Pakistan at Bangalore late last year, could sway the think tank to include him in the eleven for the match here.

Pitch curator Dhiraj Parsana has promised a more sporting track for the match than the one that gave heart-break to the rival teams' bowling attacks in Chennai.

Incidentally, SA have played a Test here only once previously, in 1996, and slumped to a dramatic defeat when they failed to chase the small target of 170 set by India and collapsed for 105 against the pace and reverse swing extracted by Javagal Srinath who took his then career-best 6 for 21.