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Zaheer to return as India seek to level series

India will welcome back paceman Zaheer Khan from injury to bolster an attack that was pulverized by South Africa in a one-sided first Test when the second Test starts in Durban on Sunday.

cricket Updated: Dec 24, 2010 19:23 IST

India will welcome back paceman Zaheer Khan from injury to bolster an attack that was pulverized by South Africa in a one-sided first Test when the second Test starts in Durban on Sunday.

The number-one ranked Test team were crushed by an innings and 25 runs at Centurion in the first of the three-match series. The game was put beyond India in the first two days when they were skittled for 136 before the hosts piled up 620 for four declared.

Conditions are expected to be similar in Durban, where a humid atmosphere and the usual overcast conditions ensure plenty of assistance for bowlers. Zaheer is set to replace Jaidev Unadkat.

"We need 20 Test wickets and we've shown in the last three years that we have the ability to do that on any surface," India coach Gary Kirsten said.

"We were well-prepared for the last Test but it was a tough pitch to bat on the first day and we let ourselves down a bit, we needed a 100 more runs.

"If one of our top six can score a big hundred, then we will get to 400. The guy that's in needs to bat for a decent time because if you don't get around that 400 mark then you put yourself under pressure."

South Africa are ready for an India backlash and will not be complacent, captain Graeme Smith said.

"It was great to start the series well and it would be great to carry it on in Durban. If we can go 2-0 up it would be fantastic, but we need to keep our feet on the ground and work to that point.

"It's about getting our skills right here in Durban, finding the right areas with the ball and knowing our game plans with the bat. If we can do that then we can really build on our success in Centurion and it will be tough for India."

Hashim Amla will celebrate his 50th Test on his home ground and will be at the forefront of a powerful South Africa top six that has collectively motored to 19 centuries in 10 Tests this year.

"It's going to be a big test match for Hashim, but he's the type of guy who takes these things in his stride, which is one of his biggest strengths. He is very composed, very disciplined and very calm, and I expect it to be no different here," Smith said.

"He is one of the better players around the world which is fantastic for us."

Amla has scored five centuries this year and averages 85.71, while Jacques Kallis, who had the nation in raptures last weekend with his maiden Test double century, has amassed six centuries and averages 90.07.

The ailing Indian batting line-up could well be beefed up with Cheteshwar Pujara earning his second call-up in place of Suresh Raina, who scored just one and five at Centurion and was caught in the slips in both innings.

Probable teams:

India - Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

South Africa - Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Morne Morkel.