Indian captain Virat Kohli wants his batsmen to “show intent” when they come up against South Africa’s fast bowlers again in the second Test starting at Centurion on Saturday. “You can’t just stand there and take whatever is coming your way and not have intent,” Kohli said after his team were beaten by 72 runs in the first Test in Cape Town.
“You might get out but it’s important to keep coming at the bowler and making them feel, ‘if you make an error I am going to score.”
With conditions at Centurion again likely to favour fast bowling, the problem for India is not just how they should execute Kohli’s strategy — but who should do it.
No Indian top-order batsman made more than 28 in either innings in Cape Town. The only two scores above 30 were 93 by Hardik Pandya in the first innings and 37 by Ravichandran Ashwin in the second.
Pandya and Ashwin were batting at number seven and eight respectively, which suggests India have enough depth in their batting order — if their top-order players can get themselves through the new ball.
At least two batting positions will be debated as the tourists seek a way to play themselves back into the three-Test series.
Left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan fell to short-pitched deliveries in both innings and there is an argument for Lokesh Rahul to take his place, while Ajinkya Rahane must be a contender to replace Rohit Sharma at number five.
Kohli said the selection for Cape Town was based on form. Rahane had a dismal recent series against Sri Lanka but has shown the ability to score runs away from home.
On India’s 2013/14 tour of South Africa Rahane scored 47, 15, 51 not out and 96 in the two Test matches and looked one of the best-equipped Indian batsmen against pace.
South Africa, meanwhile, look set to once again pick a four-pronged pace attack, although they have to replace the injured Dale Steyn.
There are three candidates — two out-and-out pace specialists in Duanne Olivier and Lungi Ngidi or Chris Morris who has batting skills as well as the ability to bowl at more than 140 kmh.
Both teams showed batting fragility in Cape Town, with India’s pace bowlers showing they too could take advantage of helpful conditions.
AB de Villiers’ aggression in innings of 65 and 35 was a key factor for South Africa. It is that sort of intent that both teams will be seeking in what promises to be another action-paced Test.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris or Duanne Olivier or Lungi Ngidi, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan or Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma or Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
Umpires: Michael Gough (ENG), Paul Reiffel (AUS)
TV umpire: Richard Kettleborough (both ENG)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)