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South Africa v India, 3rd ODI, Cape Town

India have a mountain to climb

Dileep Premachandran in Cape Town

November 24, 2006

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'Munaf Patel was present [in the practice session] but didn't bowl, though the problem is unlikely to affect his participation in Sunday's game' © Getty Images

Newlands is one of the game's storied venues, having hosted its first Test back in 1888-89. South Africa's last one-day outing here produced one of their most famous victories, with Makhaya Ntini taking 6 for 22 in a 196-run thrashing of Australia. Ricky Ponting's men didn't have to wait long for retribution though, with Stuart Clark taking 9 for 89 on debut as South Africa were routed inside three days on a pitch that stayed damp for two days.

India were to have their first practice session at Newlands on Friday morning, but persistent drizzle and grey skies forced them to relocate to the indoor nets at the University of Cape Town. The historic campus, where some of South Africa's best writers like Andre Brink have taught and where Duncan Fletcher coached the cricket team, played a prominent role in the struggle against the injustices of apartheid, but politics and liberal values would be the last thing on these Indian minds after the hammering in Durban.

They had to make do with net sessions on a basketball court, upon which green-coloured mats had been thrown. There were the usual catching and fielding drills too, though Munaf Patel missed out with a sore left ankle. He was present but didn't bowl, though the problem is unlikely to affect his participation in Sunday's game, or even Saturday's practice session. Virender Sehwag, who missed the Durban match, tapped the ball around by himself later, wearing no gloves, and appeared in no visible discomfort. If he's cleared to play on Sunday, it'll be a massive boost for an embattled side.

South Africa practised at Newlands in the afternoon, on a slightly damp outfield and under leaden skies. The wind whistled through the empty stands, and the top of Table Mountain, which provides such a breathtaking backdrop to the venue, was wreathed in mist. For India, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, with slower pitches when compared to the high veld, offer the best chance of success. But to achieve it will be as difficult as walking up Table Mountain.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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