Winning a Test series in South Africa isn’t straightforward at all. There’s a reason why India, in the history of the game, haven’t managed to get a series win in South Africa. The conditions for batting are tough and the fast bowlers get bounce and enough movement off the surfaces in South Africa to cause any batter issues. Great overseas batters have scored some big runs but the ones who aren’t on the world-class level tend to have a troubled series against the Proteas.
If this Indian Test team is to script history by winning a Test series in South Africa, then these are the three key points they’d have to execute to perfection.
BIG FIRST INNINGS RUNS
This point seems like a no-brainer but big first-innings runs are important in order to win any match of Test cricket. But it is even more important if a team is trying to win a Test series in South Africa. The first day in South Africa is tough for the batters to negate, as the ball does enough to keep the seam bowlers interested. If the batters managed to get out of day one without much damage, then batting gets relatively easier on day two and day three. These are the days where the batters would hope to cash in. Seeing off the new ball on day one and taking the first innings long would be key for India to do well in South Africa.
RELENTLESS ACCURACY WITH THE BALL
The pitches in South Africa always keep the fast bowlers in the game. Bowlers who have the ability to move the ball slightly are the deadliest in those conditions. We’ve seen bowlers like Vernon Philander in the past who doesn’t have express pace, but have relentless accuracy and move the ball just enough to get the edge of the bat of the batters. This Indian fast bowling unit would relish bowling in those conditions. Apart from Mohammed Siraj, all the others have had a taste of Test cricket in South Africa previously. Expect these bowlers to trouble the Proteas batters throughout this series.
Spinners historically have had a tough time in South Africa. No spinner who has played more than three matches in South Africa in the past ten years has averaged less than 30 in those conditions. Ravi Ashwin who would be India’s leading spinner for the tour has a dismal record in South Africa. In three matches, Ashwin has picked up just seven wickets at a less than impressive average of 46.14 and a strike rate of over 100. Surely Ashwin is at the peak of his powers going into this particular series but these numbers don’t bode well.
If someone of Ashwin’s class has struggled to have an impact in South Africa then you can imagine how difficult it really would be to bowl spin in those conditions. Lately, Ashwin has been a great exploiter of bounce, which we saw in Australia as well so he’d be hoping to use the extra bounce he’d extract from the surface to his advantage. India need a spinner like Ashwin to step up and have an impactful series if they are to win their first-ever Test series in South Africa.
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