India would be wanting to take the utmost advantage of the morale-deprived South African side and will be looking to prevent the visitors any victory in the ongoing Test series as the two teams meet for the final time for the 4th and final Test match starting from 3rd December in Delhi.
India has already won the Gandhi-Mandela Test series 2015 by winning the recently concluded Nagpur Test by 124 runs. The third Test loss also marked South Africa’s historic 9-year unbeaten streak of any away Test series loss. No.2 in Test bowlers’ rankings, Ravichandran Ashwin was one of the major reasons for the mentioned record being broken. With career-best figures of 12/98, the off-spinner broke through the South African batting order with the batsmen finding it extremely difficult to judge the spin and bounce at the controversial Nagpur wicket. It could have been 3-0, hadn’t rain washed out 4 of the 5 days and, therefore, the match had been called off during the second Test at Bangalore, where India were looking to be in the driving seat. The first match of the series was also easily won the subcontinent side by 108 runs at Mohali.
With the series already in their hands, India could be looking to hand over opportunities to players who till now warmed the benches. Players like Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma could face the heat from the selectors due to their under-par performance figures from the previous matches. The 4th Test could mark the debut of Gurkareet Singh Mann, who through his stellar performances in domestic cricket had earned a spot in the Test squad. K L Rahul, who debuted in Australia last year might be wanting to go out and replace Dhawan to earn himself a berth in the playing 11 for India.
The proteas side would also want to revamp their bowling attack. With Dale Steyn still nursing a groin injury, he remained out of the field for almost the whole series. Just one Test remaining and only pride left to play for, South Africa would not be looking to risk Steyn in a dead rubber. Called as a replacement, Merchant de Lange was seen bowling extensively in the nets before the Delhi match, meaning South Africa could give the fast bowler a shot against the Indians. With ODI sensation, Rabada not picking many wickets in the longer formats, Kyle Abbott could be called in. With serious pace and movement, he could prove as a troublemaker for the Indian top-order batsmen.
But all the swapping of players and team combinations can only be decided once the pitch has told its tale. The Kotla pitch looks to be somewhat similar to the one seen in Nagpur, but the one in the capital would not help the spinners right from day one. Green patches indicating movement on the first two days are present at both ends meaning pace bowlers could make some purchase from the wicket. The turf expected to wear down by the third day as cracks are also present. The wicket could be a turner like the Nagpur one, which would complement the spinners in full force making the batsmen’s tenure at the crease more difficult.
Virat Kohli would like his batsmen to be more effective than the rest of series. With the averages of the top half of the team not being considerately high, the bowlers were the one who stepped in and turned the game and the series around for the home team. The dangerous trio of Ashwin, Jadeja and Mishra is expected to stay as the bowling core and continue shredding the opposition’s batting order to give themselves a thumping last match victory.
Speaking on his own batting performance, the skipper said, “The good thing about it is you can learn from this and improve your game. Even I have learnt a lot about my game in the last few matches. I’ve concentrated on my defence against spin in the first 20 balls I face.”
Having won the ODI and T20 series comprehensively, South Africa looked rather weak in the longer format. Turning pitches and poor batting display left them embarrassed by the end of the 3rd Test. With nothing to lose, South Africa might come out to be a more dangerous side with players playing without any sort of pressure to the maximum of their capabilities and potential. On the other hand, backlogging the pressure of leading his side in his home ground for the first time and expected to win, Captain Virat Kohli would look to take advantage of the backing provided by his home audience and aggressively take on the proteas to make it 3-0.
India – ViratKohli(c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan / K L Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny / Gurkeerat Singh Mann, W. Saha(wk), R. Ashwin, R. Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma.
South Africa – Hasim Amla(c), AB deVilliers, Stiaan Van Zyl, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Dane Vilas(wk), JP Duminy, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Merchant de Lange/Kyle Abbott.
Where to watch – Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD1 and Star Sports HD3, hotstar.com
Weather Update – It is expected to be sunny throughout the 5 days with the air remaining foggy. Max(26degree celsius); Min (13degree Celcius)
Date and time – Thursday, 3rd December to Monday, 7th December; 9:30 am IST.
Venue – Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
Session Timings – First session: 9.30-11.30 am. Lunch: 11.30 am to 12.10 pm. Second session: 12.10-2.10 pm. Tea: 2.10-2.30 pm. Third session: 2.30-4.30 pm.