After entering the series with subverted expectations, South Africa punched above their weight for four days, before finally succumbing on Day 5. But heading into Pune with the series still on the line, the Saffers would be looking to fine-tune their line-up to give them the best shot of winning.
Aiden Markram: Having impressed in the ‘A’ series and the warm-up match prior to the Tests, Markram had a disappointing outing in the first innings, before making amends in the second with some eye-catching strokeplay. With enough experience under his belt now, it goes unsaid that Markram would now have to step up and score some big runs for his team.
Dean Elgar: Dean Elgar’s grit is something every batsman in this world would love to have and his 160 in the first innings in Vizag just showed why he’s one of the best openers going around. In the presser post his century, Elgar said that coming into this series he had a point to prove and he did just that in the first Test, but for his team to have any chance of staying alive in the series, he would probably need to replicate it come Thursday.
Thenuis De Bruyn: Picked in the team for the impeccable fourth innings ton he scored against Sri Lanka on a minefield last year, Pune might very well be the “make or break” match for de Bruyn. The 27-year-old has no fifty-plus scores in his career apart from the aforementioned knock and should he fail to make his mark in the second Test, it might very well be curtains for him in Test cricket.
Temba Bavuma: One of the survivors from South Africa’s 2015 debacle, Temba Bavuma is in many ways an unsolved mystery. The management haven’t quite worked out his exact role in the team five years into his debut, and one gets the feeling that it’s affecting him. Now batting at No.4 post Hashim Amla’s retirement, Bavuma had a dire outing in Vizag, albeit he was unlucky in the second innings. With ample experience in his bag, excuses aside, the right-hander would need to convert his potential into runs in Pune.
Faf du Plessis: 2019 has already been a much better outing for du Plessis compared to 2015. He managed to go past his 2015 tally of 60 runs in the very first match and showed glimpses of his old self in his first innings knock. But uncharacteristically, du Plessis’ captaincy was off-color in Vizag, letting India off the hook every time there was an opening. He can ill-afford to do the same in Pune.
Quinton de Kock: Expectations from Quinton de Kock’s bat heading into this series were pretty low, but the southpaw exceeded it in the very first innings of the series, scoring an impeccable ton. De Kock quashed the general opinion of him being vulnerable to spin and he will surprisingly be a trump card for the Proteas heading into the second Test.
Senuran Muthusamy: Initially picked in the team as a spinner who can bat, Muthusamy channelled his inner Steve Smith in Pune by in fact putting up a stellar fight with the bat. He ended the Test unbeaten in both the innings and showed great technique and composure, adding valuable runs batting with the tail. However, saying that, he would also need to step up with the ball, considering there was little support for Maharaj throughout the first Test.
Vernon Philander: Arguably the pick of the South African bowlers in the first Test, Philander was unlucky to have not gotten more scalps to his name. Like de Kock, he too broke the stereotype of not being able to perform in the sub-continent by bowling probing spells whenever the captain brought him into the attack. He hit his stride and got better as the match progressed and in Pune, the 34-year-old would be hoping to add some wickets to his name.
Keshav Maharaj: One has got to feel for Keshav Maharaj, who got an absolute battering from the Indian batsmen in what was arguably the biggest Test of his career. Maharaj erred in his line and length way too often and despite producing the occasional unplayable delivery, he was below-par more often than not. If history is anything to go by, then Pune would just be the kind of pitch the leftie would love to bowl on and for both himself and his team, Maharaj would need to come up with a much better showing in the second Test.
Kagiso Rabada: Kagiso Rabada was probably the biggest disappointment from the first Test, from both sides. In an extremely uncharacteristic bowling display, the speedster sprayed his deliveries all over the pitch, ending up releasing the pressure built on the batsmen. The Indian openers took a liking to him and thwarted him out of the ground. But knowing KG, he is the kind of bowler who usually needs to be fired up to perform and one can only hope that the beating handed to him by the Indian batsmen in Vizag gets his juices flowing for the second.
Lungi Ngidi: Despite scoring a fifty with the bat, Dane Piedt had a forgettable outing with the ball and hence in all likeliness will be replaced by Lungi Ngidi. Having featured in the ‘A’ series prior to the Tests, the pacer would have a good assessment of Indian conditions by now and like Philander, would be looking to bring LBW and bowled into play with his stump-to-stump line. Ngidi has fond memories of playing against India having taken 7 wickets on debut and would love to even end the Test with half the number of wickets as he managed in Centurion on debut last year.
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