Shikhar Dhawan fights bounce demons ahead of Centurion Test vs South Africa
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Shikhar Dhawan fights bounce demons ahead of Centurion Test vs South Africa

Done in by seam movement in the first Test loss to South Africa in Cape Town, India batsmen, led by Shikhar Dhawan, geared up for bounce ahead of the Centurion Test

cricket Updated: Jan 11, 2018 20:34 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
South Africa vs India,Shikhar Dhawan,Indian cricket team
India batsmen Shikhar Dhawan hasn’t had the best of times playing against rising deliveries, and will look to counter South Africa’s dangerous pace brigade in the Centurion Test.(AFP)

Like the landscape, the tour is set to get rougher for India. They got their first taste of Centurion’s famed pace and bounce during nets on Thursday, two days ahead of the second Test. Home to the Titans, the Centurion Supersport Park boasts a pitch that will get quicker with more sunshine. Though Centurion did get some rain on Tuesday, it has been hot.

Having taken the lead in the three-match series, South Africa have come to Centurion, where they have an enviable record of 17 victories out of 22 Tests. Only England (in 2000) and Australia (in 2014) have been able to win here, giving the hosts an air of invincibility. And for this South Africa side, it doesn’t get more homely than Centurion as seven of them have played here all their life.

SA at home

Starting with openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram, captain Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris all call this their home ground.

Adding to this long list is Lungi Ngidi, a 21-year-old pacer, who can bowl at 145 kph plus and has been named with Duanne Oliver as the injured Dale Steyn’s replacements in the squad.

It looks like a toss-up between all-rounder Chris Morris and Ngidi after Steyn’s injury, but South Africa may just include Temba Bavuma as extra batsman after the Newlands batting implosion.

India, however, have serious decisions to make. Shikhar Dhawan’s problem against the rising delivery is well-documented and was exploited at Newlands. Cape Town was another failure in Dhawan’s overseas record, but it was clear from Thursday’s regimen that he doesn’t want to quit early.

Dhawan, Rahane at nets

Spending considerable time trying to either get on top or leave canvas balls thrown at him from short distance was Dhawan’s way of fighting his demons. Third opener KL Rahul too slogged at the nets. So did Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. But with edges flying around and the ball missing the bat a number of times, it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were seen bowling with the new ball. It remains to be seen whether the pace attack will be unchanged from Newlands. Bounce at the net wickets was consistent and the India batsmen tried to push themselves further by making the bowlers come up a few more yards while bowling.

But the pitches were not as green as the ones on which Titans usually train on. From a distance, the centre pitch at Centurion looked brown. However, it will be far from a flat pitch, of the kind Indian batsmen have been raised on.

The pitch might be watered once more before the Test and a little grass might be left to satisfy Proteas skipper du Plessis. But it has been assured that this won’t be like Newlands in terms of lateral movement. If at all, this pitch might help spinners towards the end as sunshine might open up the pitch on the fourth or fifth day, making R Ashwin and Keshav Maharaj central to the teams’ plans.

First Published: Jan 11, 2018 20:28 IST