There will be no let-up for India’s batsmen in the second Test against South Africa starting in Pretoria on Saturday when another wicket delivering pace and bounce is expected at a venue that is firm a favourite of the home side.
India slumped to a 72-run loss in the first Test on a responsive wicket at Newlands in Cape Town, managing a match aggregate of 344 runs in a game that was essentially over in three days after one was entirely lost to rain.
If there had been any hope within the Indian camp that the SuperSport Park surface might offer a reprieve, they will be left sorely disappointed with another fast track expected – so much so that South Africa are debating leaving out spinner Keshav Maharaj to go in with an all-seam attack.
Chris Morris is likely to come into the side for the injured Dale Steyn and he will offer seam movement and bounce at a brisk pace, as well as strengthen the batting line-up.
Seamers Duanne Olivier and the uncapped Lungi Ngidi have also been drafted in to provide the team brains trust with further options, making it clear that South Africa are toying with an all seam attack.
The tall Ngidi, 21, is an exciting addition to the home bowling stocks, with good pace and a growing reputation, though his inclusion without prior test experience would be something of a risk.
South Africa coach Ottis Gibson believes using pace to beat India on responsive wickets is South Africa’s best chance of success in the series.
“If you want to beat the best team in the world, which India are, then maybe we have to do something slightly different to what we’ve done in the past,” Gibson told reporters in the wake of the victory at Newlands.
“We have to get stuck in and be tough with the bat and the ball. Get in their faces a bit, use our physicality in terms of our pace. When you are playing at home you play to your strengths and at the moment we have some high-quality fast bowlers.”
Good home record
South Africa have exploited the conditions in Pretoria expertly in the past and it has been their favourite home ground – also the venue where the likes of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel and, more latterly, Aiden Markram made their first strides in the game.
South Africa have played 22 Tests at the venue since their first in 1995 and lost just two of those.
Of their 17 victories, eight have been by an innings and a further three by more than 200 runs. They also have an eight-wicket win over Australia and a 10-wicket success against the West Indies.
In short, they have been dominant as the conditions have largely been perfect for their great bowling strength – seam.
In six of the last seven Tests, they have won four by an innings and the other two by over 200 runs.
That includes an innings and 25-run victory over India in 2010, the only other time that the sub-continent side has played in Pretoria
Morne Morkel took 5/20 in the first innings as India were skittled for 136, before a double-hundred from Jacques Kallis and centuries for Hashim Amla and De Villiers saw South Africa to 620/4 declared.
India rallied in the second innings on the back of a fine 90 from MS Dhoni and an unbeaten century from the masterful Sachin Tendulkar, but the game was lost.
The ground is also a favourite of Amla, who is going through a difficult patch with the bat. He has five centuries, including a double, in 11 tests at an average of over 80. He will relish a return to a place where he feels comfortable scoring runs to try and play his way out of his rut.
South Africa were undone in two very different ways in their only two Test defeats in Pretoria.
The first was the infamous declaration Test against England in 2000 when rain intervened and then South Africa captain Hansie Cronje, allegedly at the request of bookmakers, negotiated with England for the tourists to forfeit their first innings and South Africa their second.
It left England needing 249 for victory in their second turn at bat on day five, which they managed with eight wickets down.
The second defeat will give India cold comfort as ferocious fast bowling from Mitchell Johnson, who took 12 wickets in the Test on a lively wicket, helped Australia to a 281-run success in 2014.
South Africa will hope that Kagiso Rabada will be their Johnson for this coming Test and having taken 13 wickets in a match against England at the venue in January 2016, followed that up with another five against New Zealand in August.
Installed as the No 1 bowler in Test cricket after South Africa’s success in Cape Town on Monday, Rabada could well be the man to strike at India again, with a pitch perfectly prepared to suit his considerable assets.