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Which Newlands deck will turn up for India?

Srinath Sripath
Over the past few years, Test matches at Newlands have barely stuck to a single narrative: there have been run-fests, bizarre days of pace-bowling mayhem, and spinners getting wickets by the bucketload. As India take on South Africa in the first Test this week, we look at three recent Tests at the venue and the starkly contrasting ways in which they unfolded.
The flatbed that wakes up too late
England 629 for 6 dec (Stokes 258, Bairstow 150*) and 159 for 6 (Bairstow 30*, Piedt 3-38) drew with South Africa 627 for 7 dec (Amla 201, Bavuma 102*)
At the end of the fourth day of this Test, only 13 wickets had fallen and 1272 runs had been amassed. South Africa were fielding a weakened bowling attack, without Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott. England's middle order took them apart, putting together the first ever 600-plus first innings total on South African soil. By the time England were asked to bat again on the evening of day four, the match seemed to be headed for a tame draw. Then, offspinner Dane Piedt ran through their middle order on the final morning. For a while, it looked like a deja vu of Adelaide 2006, before Jonny Bairstow played out the final hour. Ben Stokes was Man of the Match for his 258, but it was Bairstow - unbeaten in the Test with an aggregate 180 runs - who ensured that South Africa did not complete a remarkable comeback.
The deck with something in it for everyone
South Africa 326 (Peterson 84, de Villiers 61, Ajmal 6-96) and 182 for 6 (Amla 58, Ajmal 4-51) beat Pakistan 338 (Shafiq 111, Younis 111, Philander 5-59) and 169 (Ali 65, Philander 4-40) by four wickets
It's a sunny day two morning of a Test match in South Africa. "Play out the first hour", "see out the fast bowlers early on" are some commonly heard refrains. In 2013, though, with Pakistan's opening bowlers having failed to provide a breakthrough, Saeed Ajmal came on to bowl in just the 12th over. By the end of his 17th, he had a five-for, with a list of victims that read: Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Jacques Kallis.
While Ajmal's spell was among the few moments in the Test match Pakistan rattled South Africa, the wicket had something in it for everyone. Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq and Robin Peterson all played solid knocks in the first innings, before Steyn and Philander inflicted lethal damage on the fourth day. And just when you thought you had seen everything, Peterson went on to pick up three wickets, exploiting the deteriorating pitch in Pakistan's second innings. Ajmal then had South Africa's top order in knots briefly, completing his ten-for on the fourth-day pitch, before AB de Villiers and Dean Elgar saw the hosts home.
South Africa 96 (Watson 5-17, Harris 4-33) and 236 for 2 (Amla 112, Smith 101*) beat Australia 284 (Clarke 151, Steyn 4-55) and 47 (Philander 5-15, Morkel 3-9) by eight wickets
The paceman's paradise
ESPNcricinfo's preview for this Test predicted that the Newlands pitch "offered hope to both the pace bowlers via plenty of grass, but also the spinners thanks to a prominent bare patch at one end". The previous two Tests at the ground had been tightly contested draws, with the likes of Graeme Swann and Harbhajan Singh making good use of the assistance on offer in the second innings.
Nothing, not even the eight-wicket first day could guarantee the mayhem that would unravel on the second day. Twenty three wickets fell, and 18 batsmen were dismissed for single-digit scores. First, South Africa were skittled for 96, then Australia found themselves 21 for 9 in their second innings, threatening the all-time record for the lowest total in Test cricket, only for Nathan Lyon to save them the embarrassment. Ample seam movement, inordinate bounce off a good length and some loose shots all contributed to a bizarre day of Test cricket.
As if none of this had happened, Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith put on 195 in the fourth innings - the highest partnership of the match - to take South Africa to an eight-wicket win.

Srinath Sripath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo