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Sidharth Monga in Durban
December 24, 2013
India and South Africa know it will be important to put the last draw behind them and start afresh for Durban - which might be difficult with only three days' gap in between - but India continued to try to claim psychological advantage after they pushed the No. 1 side to the brink in their backyard. Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 153 in the second innings in Johannesburg and was part of the highest partnership of the match, said South Africa had more reason to be disappointed after Wanderers.
"If we look at the last game, we have more positives than them because when we batted first the ball was doing a bit," Pujara said. "We batted well and when they batted in the first innings there wasn't much help for the bowlers so the kind of comeback we made in [their] first innings. On the last day we were expecting more movement from the cracks but it didn't happen. So I think they had the opportunity to bat well when the wicket was better and when we batted - even in the second innings - the ball was doing a bit. When they batted, at times there was a little bit of movement but they were lucky enough to survive."
In pushing South Africa to the edge, India also had to bowl their bowlers for longer than they would have liked considering the next Test starts in three days' time. Two days after the match, Zaheer Khan - he bowled more than he has ever done in a Test - and Ishant Sharma gave the optional training session a miss. Pujara reassured that recovery should not be a problem.
"Such close matches you expect in Test format," Pujara said. "It was a very exciting Test. Don't think there is any problem with the recovery. We are training a lot so we are fit enough to prepare for the next game, and there were a lot of positives for us to go ahead with a positive frame of mind in this match."
Emotional and mental recovery, though, might be a different issue. "It was difficult because we felt that we had a very good chance to win the match but just one partnership in one particular session didn't go our way," Pujara said. "So emotionally and mentally coming out [of it] and playing this match will be important. We have to forget what happened and focus on our plans after looking at the wicket tomorrow and work accordingly."
From what he has seen of South Africa's batting, Pujara believes India can bowl them out twice. "The kind of batting line-up they have we have got a very good chance to bowl them out," Pujara said. "Just AB [de Villiers] and Faf [du Plessis] were able to score big runs. Apart from them no one got big runs. So it's a positive sign for us. We also believe that we can get them out. Also if you look at the last session, they were cautious about not going for the target so they are worried about their tail-enders not batting through. So it's a positive sign for us."
India will take heart from the fact that Dale Steyn returned his worst figures in a Test, but will also be wary that Steyn, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis are all unlikely to fail in back-to-back Tests. Pujara was not getting drawn into any complacence regarding Steyn. "It's a good thing for us that he didn't get any wickets," Pujara said, "but he is a good bowler so we don't want to underestimate him. And we have to be careful against him even in this match so as a team we can't take him lightly. It's just that we had very good success, and we will try and continue the same thing in this match."
South Africa's spinner, though, is a different story. "Think [Imran] Tahir didn't bowl well," Pujara said. "Kind of expectations South Africa had of him, he didn't bowl well enough and they also knew that they would have to bowl [JP] Duminy and him because Morne Morkel was injured in the second innings so we took the advantage and wanted to capitalise when they were on and we were successful. On that wicket there wasn't much help for the spinners so I don't want to rate anybody but I think we batted well and Indians are known to bat well against spinners."
South Africa look more positive about Morkel's fitness than they did during the last Test. Pujara was not praying for his recovery, though. "It will make a huge difference for them because the kind of bounce he gets from the wicket it's difficult to score runs against," Pujara said. "They will have to bring in a new fast bowler, so whoever comes in hasn't been playing for them. Even when they played in Abu Dhabi I don't think he played that match. It's a new guy coming in and now they have to think about their bowling line-up. Steyn and Morkel are used to bowling in partnership so it will make a huge difference."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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