After a thrilling two matches so far, the series comes down to the final Test in Cape Town with India in the hunt for a famous series victory and South Africa looking to score a statement win as they attempt to climb back up the Test rankings. Read on for our South Africa vs India Third Test Preview and Prediction:
South Africa vs India Third Test Preview and Prediction
Series So Far
India, who arrived in South Africa after a strong 2021 which saw them beat Australia away, lead England 2-1 away before a covid-scare brought that tour to an early end and beat New Zealand at home. They continued that fine form by winning the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion by a comfortable margin. But they did benefit from batting first before rain washed out day two and left the surface considerably harder to score runs on.
There was, in fact, little difference between the scores posted by South Africa in the second fourth innings of the match and what India scored in the third innings, none of which passed 200. That trend of low scores continued into the second match of the series at Wanderers where India were unbeaten in five meetings with South Africa. But in Johannesburg, the Proteas delivered a riposte to India, with their bowlers causing the Indian batters real problems with their ability to extract bounce.
The Indian bowlers were unable to reply in kind and the line-and-length tactics they resorted to did not prove effective, despite a superb first innings showing from Shardul Thakur who took 7/61 to deny the South Africans the chance of taking a big lead. But in the end, led by a captain’s knock from Dean Elgar who finished just short of a century on 96*, the hosts chased down the target of 240 relatively comfortably, losing just three wickets.
It would be a surprise to see either team make many changes. For the Proteas, Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram will open the batting, with Markram looking for a big score after a lean series so far. Keegan Petersen, who impressed in scoring his first half-century at Wanderers, will keep his place at three with the resolute Rassie van der Dussen coming at four. The in-form Temba Bavuma will bat at five with wicket-keeper Kyle Verreyne in at six.
After their success playing four frontline quicks in the last match, bowling all-rounder Marco Jansen will likely stay at seven, even if that may not be a long-term solution for the team. That leaves either Kagiso Rabada, whose batting has disappointed in this series, or Keshav Maharaj to come in at eight. Duanne Olivier, who enjoyed a successful return to the side with the ball, will bat at ten with Lungi Ngidi completing the South African line-up.
India will surely stick with the opening combination of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, both of whom have played well so far this series, particularly the former. Cheteshwar Pujara, who had been under pressure, answered his critics with a quick-fire half-century in India’s second innings will stay at three with captain Virat Kohli returning to bat at four after missing the last Test with back spasms. That will see Ajinkya Rahane drop down to fifth and likely see Hanuma Vihari miss out.
Rishabh Pant will keep and bat at six, with R Ashwin at seven. The spinner impressed in Johannesburg where he became the first Indian spinner since Anil Kumble to take a wicket. Thakur will hope to repeat his impressive performance with bat and ball, with Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah coming in at nine and ten and likely to share duties with the new ball. With Mohammed Siraj out with a hamstring problem, expect either Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma to come in to replace him.
South Africa almost certainly could not challenge India away from home, but it is an encouraging sign for the Proteas that they offered such stiff resistance to the world’s best team at home. But one wonders if the different conditions away from the Highveld might be more helpful to the tourists than the home team. Batting is generally easier at Newlands than at Wanderers or SuperSport Park and the Indian batting line-up looks stronger than the South African.
Of course, there is not likely to be a great deal in it and the South African battery of quicks is more probably more threatening than the Indian pace attack, which may swing the Test in South African’s favour. One area where India certainly have an advantage is in spin bowling, however, with Ashwin a master of his craft. Maharaj is more than serviceable, but not in his opposite number’s league. That points toward an Indian victory, but, in keeping with the series so far, expect it to be close.
Prediction: Indian win.
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