Having hit back in Durban, hosts hold the aces
One change that India will have to make is to leave Sehwag out for the Kingsmead game, writes Barry Richards.Updated: Jan 02, 2007, 00:02 IST
After failing to capitalise on the initiative that they had wrested with their Wanderers win, India now go into the third Test in a must-win situation. Though South Africa are in a similar position, I would give them a little more credit for having pushed India on to the back foot despite being down 0-1 after the first game.
What surprised me at Durban was India's unwillingness to fight and gain control at crucial points of the match. They appeared not to like the wicket, and were in a negative frame of mind right from the beginning.
There was no attempt to deal with the pitch and overcome the hurdles that it put in the way. Thus, an Indian win was always looking like a miracle.
The one imperative change that the Indians will have to make is to leave Virender Sehwag out of the squad for the Kingsmead game. I have felt nothing but amazement at the way he has failed repeatedly. It is not enough for a senior player like him to score big only in places like Multan, where the wicket is tailor-made for batsmen --- great players score in all conditions, not just in one part of the world.
After South Africa collapsed to 84 all out in the first innings at Wanderers, they made things worse for themselves by bowling an incorrect length. However, they sorted that out and the difference showed at Kingsmead. After they gave away the Wanderers match thanks to poor bowling, it was with the help of a vastly improved bowling performance that they prevailed over India at Durban. So right now, all the momentum is with South Africa.
By contrast, after they let South Africa off the hook in Durban, the Indian bowlers have not looked the same. Besides, their opening partnership has just not worked. Wasim Jaffer and Sehwag haven't had a partnership of over 20 runs in the two Tests, and Sehwag has an average of 11.
However, South Africa need to keep the momentum going too. As defeat at the Wanderers showed, the South African press and public are not exactly forgiving and gracious in defeat. Since their return to the cricketing mainstream, South Africa have lost just one home series to a team other than Australia, and that was to England in 2004-05. Therefore, if Graeme Smith and his men create the record of being the first side to lose a home series to a team from the Indian subcontinent, knives will be out.
For now, Smith appears to be safe after his knock of 59 at Kingsmead, but one can't say the same of Hashim Amla, who is almost certain to go once Jacques Kallis returns.