India hold edge in do-or-die battle for South Africa

Nagur,November 24: Leading 1-0 in what has now effectively become a three-game series after the washout at Bengaluru, India would be looking to deliver the knock-out blow on South Africa and sew up the rubber in the third cricket Test commencing here tomorrow.

With the VCA Stadium pitch in Jamtha here sporting a dry look and promising to offer copious turn to spinners, another low-scoring cat-and-mouse contest is on the cards in the penultimate game of the series with India holding the aces because of its superior spin attack.

Both the teams would be a bit rusty going into the game with no play being possible in the second Test at Bengaluru after the opening day's proceedings following the end of the first Test in Mohali inside three days.

Having knocked down the visitors for scores of 184, 109 and 214 in the three completed South African innings so far in the series, the Indian spin attack poses the biggest threat to the visitors in this do-or-die game which they must win to keep the contest alive for the fourth and last match at Delhi.

Barring the odd wicket to the medium pacers or to a run-out, the Indian spinners have done the bulk of the damage against a side which has played them with a lot of concern and suspicion.

As such, India have a lot going in their favour even if their batsmen, barring opener Murali Vijay and one-down Cheteshwar Pujara, did not do anything significant in the low-scoring first Test at Mohali.

The encouraging return to form of opener Shikhar Dhawan after a string of low scores with a fluent, unbeaten knock of 45 with seven fours in India's strong reply of 80 for no loss to the visitors' paltry 214 in the rained-out Bengaluru game is another plus.

Though shot out for 201 and 200 in the opening match at Mohali, Vijay who scored 75 and 47 in the two innings did not feel the hosts' batting was a cause for worry.

"The confidence is really high as for now because we had a good game (in Mohali) and the first day (in Bengaluru) was in our favour. I don't think batting is a worry for us because everybody is one match away from a big knock and this match may be the one," he insisted yesterday.

The key to South Africa turning around the fortunes is the willingness of their batsmen to confront the spin threat posed by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on a track that could be tailor-made for them.

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