Zaheer’s return to boost India’s chances in Durban Test (Preview)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

DURBAN - Speedster Zaheer Khan’s return will bolster the Indian pace attack and their chances in the second cricket Test against South Africa starting here Sunday at the Kingsmead Stadium.

India, ranked No.1 in Tests, suffered a humiliating innings and 25 runs defeat against the World No.2 team in the first Test in Centurion. Indian batsmen failed to apply themselves in seaming conditions and were bowled out for 136 runs in the first innings.

Though the Indians are again expected to get similar conditions here, Zaheer’s return at the expense of Jaydev Unadkat will give some teeth to the Indian bowling in overcast conditions that will assist the fast bowlers.

India may also make a change in their batting order with middle-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara replacing Suresh Raina, who made one and five in the first Test.

India coach Gary Kirsten knows that his bowlers have the potential to pick 20 wickets in a match and said the bowlers have to prove it again here.

“Our bowlers have the ability to pick 20 wickets in a match and they have shown in the last three years that they have the ability to do that on any surface. They have to prove it again here,” said Kirsten

The South African knows that if the top-order gets going, India can get 400 runs on board to make life difficult for the hosts.

“We were well-prepared for the last Test but it was a tough pitch to bat on on the first day and we let ourselves down a bit, we needed a 100 more runs. If one of our top six can score a big hundred, then we will get to 400. The guy that gets in needs to bat for a decent time because if you don’t get around that 400 mark then you put yourself under pressure,” said the former South African opener.

After a huge win, South Africa are not complacent as they have a poor record at Kingsmead having lost their last two Test matches here against Australia and England.

“It was a great start to the series, but we need to keep our feet on the ground and work to that point. It would be great to carry it on in Durban and if we can go 2-0 up it would be fantastic,” said South African captain Graeme Smith.

“It’s about getting our skills right here in Durban, finding the right areas with the ball and knowing our game plans with the bat. If we can do that then we can really build on our success in Centurion and it will be tough for India.”

All eyes will also be on Hashim Amla, who will be playing his 50th Test and that too in his home ground.

“It’s going to be a big test match for Hashim, but he’s the type of guy who takes these things in his stride, which is one of his biggest strengths. He is very composed, very disciplined and very calm, and I expect it to be no different here,” Smith said.

“He is one of the better players around the world which is fantastic for us.”

Amla doesn’t have a good record at his home ground, but he doesn’t want to delve too much into statistics.

“I consider every Test match a special occasion so playing in my 50th Test doesn’t make it any more important. The team comes first and I don’t like statistics to be a distraction,” said the quiet-spoken batsman.

Amla, who has four consecutive hundreds against India, will be looking to hit his first hundred at Kingsmead.

“I’ve made centuries all over the world but it would be lovely if I can do it in front of my home crowd. I am very fortunate to have learnt to play cricket on this wicket - although I’m not sure what it will do this week - but the boundaries are also smaller so it’s a good opportunity to try and get another high score,” he said.


South Africa (likely XI): Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher (wicketkeeper), Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Paul Harris, Morne Morkel.

India (likely XI): Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain-wicketkeeper), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.

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