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The Preview by Firdose Moonda
December 25, 2013
Dravid: Big challenges after taxing Test
December 26- December 30, 2013
Start time 1000 local (0800GMT)
Test match cricket probably does not get tougher or tenser than the Wanderers last week. It also doesn't get more tight. After five days of one of the best quality matches in recent times, there was no winner which has increased what's at stake in this Boxing Day Test.
For South Africa, that grew even more when Jacques Kallis announced the Durban match would be his last. South Africa will want to give him a send-off that includes a series win but will also have on eye on important points on the ICC rankings and intangible ones the teams need to prove to themselves and their fans.
India have already done the last of those. Their batsmen performed beyond expectation and showed their ability to adjust to conditions that are regarded as some of the toughest in the world. Their bowlers had the measure of their opposition for the majority of the first Test. Having pushed the No. 1 ranked team to the edge, India will see no reason why they can't tip them over, especially given the venue of the second Test.
Durban is where India beat South Africa the last time they were here. Graeme Smith's men have not won any of the last four matches they have played at Kingsmead, which gives them all the more reason to push for one here. They are a proud and proven team, who have claimed victories all over the cricketing world and now need to get an important one on their own turf and will take heart from their record to do that.
South Africa have not lost a series in almost five years. Their last defeat came in February 2009 against Australia. Since then, they have played 13 series, won seven and drawn six. Of those, four of the shared spoils came at home. Being the top-ranked team is important to them and this series will play a crucial role in staying there.
India's next assignment is against New Zealand while South Africa take on third placed Australia at home so the outcome of this match could be crucial for the rankings over the next few months.
Form guide(last five completed games most recent first)
In the spotlight
It was always coming but it arrived unexpectedly soon. Jacques Kallis will play his last Test in Durban. After 18 years as a Test allrounder, Kallis has decided to reserve the time he has left for limited-overs cricket only with an eye on the 2015 World Cup. That doesn't mean he won't want to go out with a bang. After last scoring a century more than a year ago, Kallis has the perfect stage to do it here.
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander were, according to Graeme Smith, the two men who made the decision to play for a draw in Johannesburg because they wanted to leave the open the possibility of winning the series in Durban. Much of the burden of doing that will fall on them. After going wicketless in the second innings at the Wanderers, Steyn will be looking forward to the possibility of swing in the air at Kingsmead while Philander, who has not played a Test at this ground will want to show his style of bowling can be as successful in these conditions as they are anywhere.
Having recently become the fastest Indian bowler to 100 Test wickets, R Ashwin may not be used to playing a bit-part role but that's what he had to do at the Wanderers. Ashwin bowled only six overs in the first wickets and although his load was six times more in the second, he went wicket-less. That should change in Durban. With spin certain to play a role, Ashwin should have the opportunity to come into his own in the latter stages of the match. His contributions with the bat on what could be a tricky surface will also be needed.
Morne Morkel's quick recovery from his ankle sprain means South Africa may not have to choose any replacement seamer and can stick to the same pace attack. Should something go wrong for Morkel, one of Rory Kleinveldt or Kyle Abbott will take his place. They seem certain to make a change in the spin department with Robin Peterson likely to step in for Imran Tahir.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 JP Duminy 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir/Robin Peterson
After the way their batting line-up stood up at the Wanderers, India do not have any need to make changes. They may ponder playing a second specialist spinner with Ravindra Jadeja a possibility, but will then have to leave out a batsman. Their pacemen showed what they are capable of in Johannesburg and unless one of them is carrying legs which are too tired to carry on, they should field the same trio in that department.
India: (likely) 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Ajinkya Rahane, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 Mohammed Shami
Pitch and conditions
Durban is the South Africa's most Indian city - in terms of weather and demographics - and the pitch may end up reflecting that. The surface is expected to be slower than usual and should take turn as the match enters the final two days. Despite Durban gaining a reputation for washouts, the first three days are forecast to be sunny and hot. Rain is scheduled for all of Sunday, with the final day cloudy and cooler.
Stats and trivia
"That workload will be in their legs somewhere in the Test match, especially if we can get a good partnership somewhere in their line-up. The more confident we've got, the less the toss is a worry for us."
India's bowlers toiled for 136 overs three days ago but Graeme Smith will try not to let that sway his decision too much, if he wins the toss.
"We gained a lot of confidence and there a lot of positives for us. We batted really well. We bowled really well. So if we can repeat the same thing then we have a very good chance of winning this test match."
Chesteshwar Pujara think India gained more momentum from the Johannesburg draw than the hosts and expects them to turn that into victory in Durban
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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