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India seek to seal series against South Africa in second Test

Press Trust of India

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Pune: Improving on near perfection would be India’s aim while building on the small positives from a huge loss will be South Africa’s focus when the two mismatched sides clash in the second Test starting here from Thursday.

Virat Kohli’s men ticked almost all the boxes during their 203-run win in the opening encounter in Visakhapatnam and they would like to maintain the same intensity in their bid to seal the series in Pune itself.

It is difficult to improve upon a perfect show but trust Kohli to find a new challenge for his team in his pursuit of excellence.

It certainly won’t be a bad idea against an opposition which doesn’t have the wherewithal to pose consistent challenge over five days.

Rohit Sharma 2.0’s blockbuster re-entry into Test arena as an opener with twin hundreds was a calculated punt, that worked wonderfully well first up for Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri.

With Mayank Agarwal also showing signs of making every chance count, as he did with his maiden double hundred in Visakhapatnam, India’s opening woes at least (in home conditions) for the next four Tests (two vs Bangladesh next month) could be history for the time being.

The heavy duty batting line-up that also includes Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari would look to make a heftier contribution if the pitch at the Gahunje Stadium aids batsmen.

It was at this very ground that the Indian Test team endured its last batting collapse at home, against Australia in 2017 on a rank turner where off-spinner Nathan Lyon made lives miserable.

Chances are slim that a pitch of that nature will be on offer for the upcoming game and even if curator Pandurang Salgaokar offers anything remotely close, chances of India, armed with two seasoned spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, might finish it off in less than four days.

The dogged Dean Elgar and the elegant Quinton de Kock have shown a lot of character with their hundreds in the first Test but chances of a Steve Smith like 2017 batting masterclass on a dodgy track may not be possible.

Ashwin, with a match haul of eight wickets, and Jadeja, with his all-round solidity, give this team a menacing look in home conditions.

Also Mohammed Shami’s mastery with the semi new and old ball on dry tracks is slowly attaining legendary status.

One can only hope that Shami remains niggle-free as he was seen hobbling on his run-up in the first innings in Visakhapatnam even though it became better in the second innings.

Ishant Sharma was also steady during both the innings without being spectacular.

Such was their impact that Jasprit Bumrah was hardly missed despite his phenomenal presence in red ball cricket over the last 18 months.

While India, unless forced by any unforeseen injury, are unlikely to change their playing XI, the South Africans might be tempted to drop one among Senuran Muthusamy and Dane Piedt, who were taken to the cleaners by the Indian batsmen.

Rohit was especially hard on them and hit a world record 13 sixes in the game.

It could well be Muthusamy and in that case batsman Zubayr Hamza may get a look in.

If Piedt is dropped, the Proteas could be tempted to try Lungi Ngidi, who could make a difference with his pace and movement.

In any case, it will be an uphill battle for the visitors.

Teams

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Chesteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Piedt, Senuran Muthusamy, Zubayr Hamza.

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Ranchi Test: Pacers put India on brink of series whitewash against South Africa

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Team India

Ranchi: India’s bowlers, led by Mohammed Shami, pushed Virat Kohli and boys closer to a 3-0 whitewash as South Africa were left tottering at 132/8 at stumps on Day 3 after following on in the third and final Test at the JSCA Stadium on Monday.

At close of play, Dean Elgar’s concussion substitute Theunis de Bruyn was batting on 30 with Anrich Nortje (5) for company. While Shami has figures of 3/10 in the second innings, Umesh Yadav has picked two as the Indian pacers once again dominated the show.

Bundled out for just 162 in the first innings, the Proteas were forced to follow on and they trail India by 203 runs with just two wickets in the bag in their second essay. While bad light did force the players to go off the field after the Indians asked for an extra 30 minutes at the fall of the eighth wicket, the South Africans are only delaying the inevitable.

To make matters worse for the Proteas, Elgar had to retire hurt post a knock on the helmet by a rising Umesh delivery just before the Tea break. India too had an injury concern as Wriddhiman Saha got hit on the ring finger of his left hand late and was replaced by Rishabh Pant in the last session of the day.

Earlier, a total of 16 wickets fell on Monday after South Africa resumed at 9/2. Umesh returned with figures of 3/40 in the first essay while Shami, debutant Shahbaz Nadeem and Ravindra Jadeja all scalped two wickets apiece. Ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, however, remained wicketless. For the tourists, Zubayr Hamza top-scored with 62.

Following on, there was no respite for the visitors as it was Shami who once again looked in lethal rhythm. He clean-bowled Hamza (0) first and then trapped skipper Faf du Plessis (4) in front as the score read 18/3. But the pacer wasn’t done and then sent back du Plessis’ ‘toss proxy’ Temba Bavuma for a duck, caught behind by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.

But the slide was started by Umesh when he sent opener Quinton de Kock’s off-stump cartwheeling with a beauty as the Proteas T20I skipper played inside the line of the ball. At the tea break, South Africa were 26/4.

In the morning session, the tourists had the worst possible start as they lost skipper du Plessis to a peach of a delivery by Umesh. Overnight-batsman Hamza, however, opted for counter-attacking technique thereafter and along with Bavuma, scored freely and made sure the visitors didn’t succumb to the pressure applied by the Indian bowlers.

Both Hamza and Bavuma collected boundaries at regular interval and kept the scoreboard moving. During the 91-run partnership, the 24-year-old Hamza went to score his maiden Test 50.

However, just when South Africa were looking like getting back into the game, Jadeja bowled a ripper to get past the bat of Hamza and brought an end to his 62-run knock. Bavuma didn’t stay long at the crease thereafter and became the first international scalp of debutant Shahbaz Nadeem at his individual score of 32.

Wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen, who came in next, didn’t trouble the scorers much and was bowled by Jadeja after contributing with six runs to South Africa total.

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Ranchi Test: Spinners run through Proteas middle order, SA 162 all out

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Team India

Ranchi: Team India have enforced the follow-on, as South Africa concluded their first innings at 162 here on Monday. South Africa, who began the day at nine for two, trail India by 368 runs.  India spinner Ravindra Jadeja rattled the South African batting after an entertaining half-century by Zubayr Hamza to leave the visitors reeling at 129 for six at lunch on day three.

Replacing an injured Aiden Markram, Hamza (62 off 79) showed fine application alongside Temba Bavuma (32) to give the Proteas some ray of hope after Umesh Yadav cleaned up skipper Faf du Plessis in his first over with a beautiful outswinger.

Hamza, who struck 10 boundaries, hit seasoned off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for a six over mid-on to bring up his maiden fifty.

Hamza showed fine application and collected boundaries at regular intervals tackling both pace and spin well while Bavuma gave him solid support in their 91-run stand for the fourth wicket.

The duo put up a much needed fight for South Africa before Jadeja provided the breakthrough by dismissing Hamza for 62 with a straighter one that crashed through the gate.

Then came “the big moment” for debutant Shahbaz Nadeem who had Bavuma stumped for his first wicket in international cricket. He foxed Bavuma with his flight as the batsman stepped out of the crease, leaving Wriddhiman Saha to do the rest.

Earlier, India had an eventful first over as Yadav produced an unplayable delivery that swung late to unsettle the off-stump of du Plessis, who left the crease shaking his head.

A few balls stayed really low while Shami was extracting fine bounce from the Pavillion end.

Yadav looked ominous and was unlucky a couple of times when Hamza edged it just short of Virat Kohli at first slip.

Hamza soon found himself at ease displaying some beautiful drives to race to his 50 off 56 balls.

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Rajasthan Royals appoints former Australian player Andrew McDonald as head coach

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Andrew McDonald

Mumbai: Inaugural IPL champions Rajasthan Royals have appointed Australian coach and cricketer Andrew Barry McDonald as their new Head coach for a tenure of three years.

The former Australian has coached Leicestershire, Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades. The 38-year-old, who played four Tests for Australia, had guided Victoria to the title win in Sheffield Shield in his first year as senior coach. The Victorian then moved the Renegades from 7th position to winning the Big Bash this year.

McDonald has been a part of the Indian Premier League in the past having played for Delhi Daredevils in the 2009 Indian Premier League before being signed up by Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2012–2013. He was also the bowling coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

“We are delighted to appoint Andrew as our Head Coach.  Andrew will be preparing for the season by sharing experiences and best practices with exceptional coaches in other sports and will be visiting India in the near future to meet the Royals team, both on and off the field.” said Ranjit Barthakur, Executive Chairman, Rajasthan Royals.

The interview panel for the Head Coach process included external experts and internal leadership which included Zubin Bharucha, Head of Cricket for Rajasthan Royals.

“I’m delighted to join the Royals family. It’s a great honour to take on this responsibility. The Rajasthan Royals is a new, exciting challenge for me, and I can’t wait to get started working with our world class players and coaches in one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world.” Andrew McDonald said.

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