A first-ever Test Series victory in South Africa is on the line for India as they face the hosts in the third and final meeting in Cape Town, starting Tuesday, January 11.
Visitors will be energized by the return of regular Test captain Virat Kohli, who missed the Johannesburg test with spasms in his upper back. Meanwhile, India will be without Mohammed Siraj, who suffered a hamstring injury in the previous match and has not made a full recovery.
So how will India align as it attempts to make history for the Rainbow Nation? Here is their game XI scheduled for the third test.
Openers: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal
KL Rahul has been India’s top hitter in the Test Series so far. While his Boxing Day Test 100 helped the visitors take the lead in the task, his gritty first 50 innings in Johannesburg significantly reduced the potential for defeat. The 29-year-old will step down as captain with Kohli’s return, but he will remain one of India’s most important players in Cape Town.
Rahul’s partner Mayank Agarwal made some eye-catching positive shots at the top of the order. But the opener has yet to register a significant score, which he hopes to change in the third test. Mayank’s positive punching play against the new hardball and his ability to counter rebounds will be key assets for India.
Middle order: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (week)
Kohli’s return should ensure that India’s middle order has a sedentary outlook. The hapless Hanuma Vihari should be the man to miss, as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane showed some semblance of form in the second round of the previous event. The mid-order trio under fire from India will be under serious pressure to deliver again, especially with the series in play.
Rishabh Pant has been in the crosshairs lately, and India has a capable replacement for Wriddhiman Saha waiting backstage. But Pant’s outfit has been solid for the most part on this tour, and India is already playing with four front row bowlers. So despite his shortcomings in shot selection, the attacking southpaw should be supported to produce a scoring shot in Cape Town.
Versatile: Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur
The all-rounders in India have been excellent so far. While Thakur provided steady breakthroughs as a fourth option and came up with a few practical leads lower in order, Ashwin’s free-kick play and ability to consolidate one end have served India well. While Ashwin doesn’t appear to be at his best with the ball in hand, the off-line has to help somehow.
Players: Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
The absence of Siraj means that India must choose between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. They are likely to go with the former, largely due to his new ball ability, but also because Umesh has never played a test in South Africa and could take some time to adjust to Cape Town conditions. Pushing him into the series decider might not be a good idea.
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Bumrah and Shami, who weren’t at their best in Johannesburg, are hopeful that the intense workload they’ve faced in the last two tests won’t come back to haunt them. The two skillful Rapids will aim for a return to form at the site which treated them well in 2018.
Q. Will India win the third test against South Africa?
83 votes to date