India v South Africa
Thursday 10 October 05.00
India are 1-0 up after a typically strong home showing in Vizag. They won the toss, batted, complied a monster and then let the wearing pitch do the rest. When Test cricket is like that it only lives up to its name for the poor mob who have flipped incorrectly.
A 317-run opening stand from Mayank Agarwal (215) and Rohit Sharma (176) put the game beyond South Africa's reach. Rohit's strike rate of 72 suggests that, in India at least, he will find the transition from ODI to Tests easy.
Ravi Ashwin claimed seven first-innings wickets and he and Ravi Jadeja opened the bowling in the second. If India bat first again in Pune, we can expect more of the same. They may even try to squeeze in a third spinner.
Hanuma Vihari batted at No 7 in the first dig and didn't bowl. It's hard not to wonder what the point of him is. Kuldeep Yadav stands by.
South Africa need to hold firm
South Africa shouldn't be too disheartened. As soon as the flip went against them, they were in big trouble but they showed admirable guts with the bat in the first innings.
Their total of 430 was a surprise as Dean Elgar and Quionton de Kock both made centuries. If Faf Du Plessis could have converted his fifty into three figures - as perhaps, he should have done considering his hard graft - then the margin of defeat (203) wouldn't have been as shocking.
They may want to re-think their line-up, though. It's all very well picking three spinners but they've got to be good enough to play. Dane Piedt doesn't look a Test standard bowler, which is hardly surprising because his first class average is 31.
Might it be better to pick a pace bowler and use him in short, sharp bursts instead? A Lungi Ngidi or Anrich Nortje perhaps? Keshav Maharaj and Senuran Muthuswumy can attempt to emulate the Ashwin-Jadeja axis.
Wicket hard to call
There has been only one Test played at the Maharashtra Cricket Stadium. Australia batted first, made 260 and won by a massive 330 runs. India were bowled out for 105 and 107, the pitch was reported and the groundsman carpeted. He had, apparently, not watered it under instruction and there had been no rain. It's probably wise not to expect something similar. In first-class cricket it has been full of runs. Only two Indian grounds have a higher runs-per-wickets figure than Pune's 35.82.
Cheeky wager on Saffers
India are 1.645/8. That price collapses if they bat first. Bits will fly off the South Africa price, too, from 10.09/1, while the draw is 3.309/4.
Pre-toss, it's the latter price that interest us most. We can envisage a lay of the stalemate at odds-on with both team capable of dropping anchor for a big total. And there was some honey for short draw layers in-running in Vizag.
The weather could help. It's not great and that is the main reason why the odds are so small. We're not convinced the rain will be heavy enough to prevent a result and the outfield is sand-based so dry time is short.
We're happy to get against the draw at any time in the first two innings if it comes 2.506/4. Otherwise, our strategy is a gamble on the Saffers at 7.06/1, batting first. They need a wearing wicket and scoreboard pressure. If they get it, they're bang in the game.
India top-bat a smouldering heat
Top India runscorer looks insanely competitive with Sportsbook given the run hauls from Rohit and Agarwal, the obduracy of Chet Pujara and, of course the king himself - Virat Kohli. Kohli is the jolly for this one, as you would expect, at 9/4 followed by Rohit at 3s, Pujara at 7/2 and Agarwal at 4s. Kohli is well overdue. He has not top batted since six Tests ago against Australia in Perth.
Elgar in tune
Before game one we said that South Africa's main three - Elgar, Du Plessis and Aiden Markram - were going to have to drop anchor. The first two look solid but Markram is having significant troubles with spin. Du Plessis and Elgara are fine wagers at 7/2 respectively. Markram is not so avoid the 4s. De Kock gets an 11/2 quote. We've also made a note of the 25s about Vernon Philander, wondering what state the pitch will be if India go big in the first dig and then unleash their spinners.