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April 2, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008 Start time 09:30 am local time (04:00 GMT)
With Kanpur's Green Park - the venue for the final Test - known to produce more draws than results, it's up to Ahmedabad to ensure a result in this series. However, the last four games have produced only one result and it would need a lively pitch to change the trend.
The featherbed in Chennai offered very little for the bowlers and the first Test served the purpose of a practice game, one where both sets of batsmen gained plenty of confidence. Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla feasted in ideal batting conditions while Rahul Dravid ground out his 25th hundred, a knock that ended a barren phase. Overshadowing these innings, though, was the blistering triple-hundred from Virender Sehwag, an innings that sent quivers down South African spines.
Bowlers from both sides have plenty to ponder, though South Africa's quicks probably gained much more in the searing heat than India's new-ball pair. None of the three specialist spinners made too much of an impression - though Harbhajan Singh would have gained some confidence from his five-wicket haul in the first innings. Though he was expensive, he improved as the game went on and troubled the batsmen with a bit of extra flight in the second innings.
Form guide - India
Last five matches: LLWDD
Player to watch: Harbhajan Singh returns to Ahmedabad with happy memories: the last time he was here, his ten-wicket match haul guided India to a series win over Sri Lanka. It was the last of his four ten-wicket hauls and he's been a shadow of himself ever since. He ended with eight wickets in the Chennai Test, although that came at a high price, and would be expected to shoulder a big part of the burden here. With Anil Kumble recovering from a groin strain, his workload might just increase.
Form guide - South Africa
Last five matches: WWWWD
Player to watch: With an aggregate of 240 runs in Chennai, Hashim Amla showed that he had the ability to counter demanding conditions. The ease with which he handled the Indian spinners wasn't lost on anyone and few would fault his shot-selection. "Hashim's form has been very encouraging," Smith said after the game. "Technically and mentally he has taken his game to another level." Another good batting pitch could see him thrive once more.
Injury concerns mean India might end up re-jigging their bowling line-up. RP Singh and Ishant Sharma could miss out, opening up a spot for Irfan Pathan. Sreesanth might retain his spot but they could decide to go in with five specialist bowlers. In Sachin Tendulkar's absence, Yuvraj Singh remains an option but India might want to use three spinners on what has traditionally been a slow and low surface.
Graeme Smith made it pretty clear that South Africa are likely to retain the same XI that played in Chennai. Paul Harris didn't have a great time in the first Test but he will, in all probability, be the only specialist spinner, complementing the three-pronged pace attack.
India (probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Wasim Jaffer, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 VVS Laxman, 5 Sourav Ganguly, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Anil Kumble (capt), 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Piyush Chawla, 11 Sreesanth.
South Africa (probable): 1 Neil McKenzie, 2 Graeme Smith (capt), 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Ashwell Prince, 6 AB de Villiers, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Morne Morkel, 9 Paul Harris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Makhaya Ntini.
Umpires: Billy Doctrove and Tony Hill.
Pitch & conditions
The Motera pitch is expected to show some wear and tear as the game goes on. Graeme Smith thought it would help the fast bowlers early on but added that it could break up as the game went along.
Weather: It's not as humid as Chennai but the players will need to brace up for some scorching heat in Ahmedabad. The temperatures are expected to hover around the 35 degrees centigrade mark but the players could think it's a lot higher while they're out in the centre.
Stats & trivia
"We had a look at his [Sehwag's] innings, and we noticed that we hadn't tested him too much with short-pitched deliveries. In fact, he played his first pull shot when he was on 312. That is one area we can test him. We'll target him with short balls early on and see how he copes with that."
Mickey Arthur, South Africa's coach
"I expect the wicket to be a sporting one, helping the fast bowlers initially and then giving aid to spinners on the last two days."
Dhiraj Prasana, the Motera curator
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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