India search Newlands in their neverland
Visitors have a chance to break new ground and Cape Town is the ideal place for it, writes Subhash Rajta. The talk of the Town | Match reckoner | SWOT analysiscricket Updated: Jan 02, 2011 01:31 IST
The script for the climax of the fascinating drama that this series has been couldn't have been better. It has the last and deciding act set in Newlands - one of the most beautiful stadiums that has the famous Table Mountain overlooking it, spice from the events that marked the last match with both teams desperate to knock the other out to win the bragging rights as the Test best team in the world.
Even as there's little to choose between the two highly competitive sides, India may walk into the final Test starting in Cape Town on Sunday with a slight advantage after their spectacular Durban win. Not only would the result have boosted their morale, it has left the South Africans hurt and angry, which may work to India's advantage.
Apart from the loss at their supposed stronghold against a team from the sub-continent, what has left South Africa rattled is some controversial umpiring decisions and the verbal exchange with Sreesanth which proved skipper Graeme Smith's undoing in the second innings. It has them distracted and could play a role in the Cape Town contest.
India, on the other hand, have looked calm and composed going into this match. They were very restrained in their celebrations post the Durban win with their sights firmly fixed on Newlands. "It's our best chance to win in South Africa and winning here would be huge for us. While I can't spell out exactly why we haven't won a series here so far, I know for sure why we could do it this time around. Besides the talent and temperament, we plan to do small things well and when you do that, you get the desired result more often than not," said skipper MS Dhoni.
Notwithstanding the momentum India have now, they will still need to be at their best to put it across the hosts and realise their dream of winning the first ever series in South Africa. To begin with, batsmen need to pull up their socks. Out of the four innings so far, India have been bowled out for less than 250 three times, anything but impressive.
First and foremost, India will hope for a better showing from Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid. While South Africa have done well to keep the opener in check, Dravid, except for his poor shot in the second innings in Durban, has fallen to some brilliant deliveries. Significant contributions from these two will go a long way in putting India on the road to victory. The fact that Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman have overcome their injury concerns will boost the batting.
As the wicket here won't offer as much assistance to the bowlers as it did in Durban, the bowlers, too, have their task cut out. Zaheer Khan will again need to work his magic and, more importantly, keep the other pacers on the right track.
South Africa, on the other hand, would leave no stone unturned at what is their happy hunting ground. Their batsmen had a poor day in Durban, and they would be more than eager to get back at the Indian bowlers at Newlands. "We have had some honest chats about Durban. Our batting unit has been pretty successful, but in Durban we lost our minds a bit. Hopefully we can gather our strength," said Graeme Smith.
The game is on.