Cape Town: With Dean Elgar-led South Africa winning the second Test at Johannesburg, the three-match series against India is nicely poised and there is everything to play for in the decider set to be played in Cape Town, beginning Tuesday.
India skipper Virat Kohli who had missed the second Test due to back spasms is all set to make a return for the decider and this will be his 99th match in the longest format.
Skipper Kohli will look to hit form and end his two-year century drought in a crucial game. Hanuma Vihari was given a chance in the place of Kohli in the second game, and the right-handed batter managed to score a crucial 40 in the second innings, but it is fair to say that with Rahane and Pujara hitting form, Vihari would be the one to get dropped if Kohli comes back into the side.
Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul have given good starts this series, and the management would just hope that the duo is able to capitalise on their starts and go big. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane also hit some kind of form in the second innings of the second test and from here onwards, it will be about staying consistent and not throwing the wicket away.
Wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant recklessness in the second innings saw him charging down into the third ball of his innings and he gave away his wicket, and this made head coach Rahul Dravid accept that there is a need to have conversations with the batter regarding the shot selection. It would be interesting to see whether Pant takes learnings from a dreadful shot and whether he is willing to apply himself at the crease.
Another big point for the visitors is the fitness of Mohammed Siraj heading into the decider. The pacer had picked up a hamstring injury midway into the second Test and it needs to be seen whether he recovers in time. If not, one from Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav will come into the side, and going by the most recent form, it would be fair to say that Umesh clearly has an edge.
Coming back to hosts South Africa, the second Test set the template for the Elgar-led side to play. Everything in the match came together for the Proteas, and it saw a spirited bowling performance being backed by solid batting. If India wants to win, the main task would be to come up with a plan to dislodge Proteas skipper Elgar.
Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi have also hit their strides and India would be required to see out the spells of these two to have any chance of winning. Duanne Olivier also troubled the visitors, so it is fair to say that India has their task cut out if they want to register their first Test series win on Proteas soil.
India: Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Priyank Panchal, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav.
South Africa: Dean Elgar (c), Aiden Markram, Keegar Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Sarel Erwee, George Linde, Marco Jansen, Wiaan Mukder, Prenelan Subrayen, Kyle Verreynne, Ryan Rickelton, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Beuran Hendricks, Keshav Maharaj, Glenton Stuurman, Sisanda Magala, Duanne Olivier.