SA vs IND 3rd Test: Virat Kohli returns for decider at Cape Town


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Skipper Virat Kohli has recovered from his upper back spasm and will lead India in the decider – it is 1-1 after two Tests – of the Freedom series, beginning here on Tuesday.

The weather forecast for the Test is good. And a draw is unlikely.

The Newlands pitch should encourage pace bowling. There will be seam movement and bounce.

Winning the toss and brazening it out in the first session, putting up a total beyond 300, and then applying pressure as the pitch deteriorates is a viable ploy for a victory.

If India loses the toss and has to field, its pacers have to bowl in the right channels and dismiss South Africa inside 225.

Kohli revealed Mohammed Siraj, still recovering from a hamstring strain, will miss the third Test.

India will have to choose between Ishant Sharma, who brings with him an off-stump line and bounce, and Umesh Yadav, a skiddy, faster bowler with two-way movement.

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Once again, a good start is vital for India against a probing South African pace attack.

Much hinges on the opening partnership between K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. If they put up a sizable stand as in the first Test, negating the Kookaburra ball’s early threat, South Africa could be chasing the game rather than controlling it.

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The confidence shown by Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the second innings at the Wanderers will be comforting for India ahead of the big game. Kohli will be itching to contribute. He requires to be tight around off and not play across incoming deliveries.

Kohli said the Indian team management had a conversation with Rishabh Pant regarding stroke selection during training. India wants this explosive southpaw to fire but do so judiciously.

India has a pace attack that can hurt line-ups, but Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will have to get their radar right. Shardul Thakur is a tricky bowler with bounce and movement.

There could be a role for off-spinner R. Ashwin if the pitch deteriorates. He lends depth to the batting too.

South Africa’s inspirational skipper, the left-handed Dean Elgar, will be a stumbling block for the Indian bowlers.

And Aidem Markram, a compelling shot-maker, is finding some form. There is, finally, a shape to the Protea batting. Keegan Petersen is a compact and attractive batsman at No 3. Rassie van der Dussen is a batsman with grit and shots of either foot.

The little Temba Bavuma is an effective striker of the ball with a reasonable defence. And wicket-keeper batter Kyle Verreynne has a decent technique.

South Africa is unlikely to make any changes so the onus will be on the top six.

And then there is the four-pronged pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen and Duanne Olivier. They are capable of making  inroads, and the hostile Rabada has rediscovered his mojo.

In such a high-pressure face-off, the team that makes the least mistakes carries the day.

Can the Table Mountain, a fascinating backdrop to the Newlands ground, inspire the Indians to conquer the peak?

India (from): Mayank Agarwal, K.L. Rahul (vice-captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), R. Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Priyank Panchal, Jayant Yadav.

South Africa (from): Dean Elgar (captain),  Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton (wk), Glenton Stuurman, Prenelan Subrayen.

Umpires: Marais Erasmus and Adrian Holdstock (onfield); TV umpire: Allahuddien Paleker; Match Referee: Andy Pycroft. 

Match starts at 2 p.m. (IST).



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