South Africa look for answers with Test Championship points at stake

Match details
JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi
October 19 to 23; 09:30 IST

The main picture
The pre-Test series suspicion that India could overpower South Africa, who distinctly lack experience in the batting department and whose bowling attack lacks the variety and firepower to take 20 wickets on Indian pitches, has been proven right. Two-nil down, staring at a whitewash at the start of their World Test Championship campaign and having lost two of their first-choice players to injuries, South Africa have been warned that India won’t be taking their foot off the gas. Not that the Proteas will have expected India to do them any favours, but those words from India captain Virat Kohli have put the onus firmly on South Africa to raise their game to avoid another heavy defeat.

You hope South Africa are thinking positively, that they look at the third Test as an opportunity to salvage pride and believe they can challenge India. They had a collective failure in Pune and changes to the playing 11 are likely for the third Test in Ranchi.

At the post-match press conference after the loss in Pune, captain Faf du Plessis said, “For us, it is important as a senior player group to make sure that we put in performances ourselves. Myself, Deano [Dean Elgar], Quinny [Quinton de Kock], we can’t expect other guys to make runs. We need to make sure we make the runs first and then the others guys to chip in with us. In a time like this, it is important that your big guys really, really take control and make sure that they put in the bulk of the work.”

While obvious, the only way South Africa can compete is if their senior players contribute in their primary roles as batsmen or bowlers. The batsmen can take inspiration from the first-innings performance in Visakhapatnam, where Elgar and de Kock made centuries and du Plessis made a half-century to help South Africa respond to India’s 502/7 declared with 431. The bowlers will admit to not making the most of the bowler-friendly conditions on the first morning in Pune, but they also haven’t had the rub of the green with edges not carrying to the slip cordon and de Kock with the gloves, and India, with Kohli winning the toss, having had the best conditions to bat in.

India’s dominance hasn’t come as a surprise, but such is the hunger within this group and the competition for places that you won’t see a drop in intensity even though the Freedom Trophy has been regained. Also, India have struggled to dislodge South Africa’s lower order in each of the four innings so far, and from the bowling group’s perspective, it’s a good challenge to have ahead of the third Test.

JSCA International Stadium Complex Ranchi pitch report and weather forecast

This will be the second Test to be hosted by the venue, two-and-a-half years after it officially became a Test venue. The pitch for that Test was devoid of pace and bounce, and it didn’t produce a result. The Ranchi pitch is unlikely to have the pace and carry of the MCA Stadium Pune pitch, and if it’s comparatively drier, the spinners will have to shoulder more of the wicket-taking responsibility.

Rain and thunderstorm have been forecast on all five days of the Test, with the temperature hovering in the late-20s (degree Celsius).

India vs South Africa 3rd Test playing 11

Likely India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Mayank Agarwal, 4 Cheteshwar Pujara, 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Ravichandran Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Ishant Sharma/Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Umesh Yadav

For South Africa, left-arm orthodox spinner George Linde has replaced Keshav Maharaj, who sustained a right shoulder injury while fielding off his own bowling in the Pune Test, in the squad. On Thursday (October 17), a press release from Cricket South Africa confirmed that opening batsman Aiden Markram, too, has been ruled out of the third Test after fracturing his right wrist from lashing out at a solid object in frustration of being dismissed leg-before wicket in the second innings of the Pune Test. Markram’s injury could give Theunis de Bruyn another opportunity on this tour after underwhelming performances in the four innings so far. Zubayr Hamza, a middle-order batsman who made his Test debut against Pakistan earlier this year, could come in as Markram’s replacement.

Possible South Africa playing 11: 1 Faf du Plessis (c), 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Theunis de Bruyn, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Zubayr Hamza, 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Vernon Philander, 8 Senuran Muthusamy/George Linde, 9 Anrich Nortje, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Lungi Ngidi

How to watch India vs South Africa 3rd Test?

The match is being aired on Star Sports 1, HD 1, Hindi 1 and Hindi 1 HD, while Hotstar will provide the live stream.