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South Africa seek inspiration from rare Pune failure to topple rampant India
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South Africa seek inspiration from rare Pune failure to topple rampant India

South Africa put on an impressive fightback in the Test series opener but still suffered a devastating 203-run loss signalling India's invincible status at home.

India's unblemished record has seen them triumph in 24 out of the last 30 Tests played at home and losing just one game.

But the solitary match they did lose to a spirited Australian side led by Steve Smith back in 2017 took place in Pune, the venue of the second Test between India and South Africa.

That crushing 333-run defeat for the hosts came in the face of a remarkable second innings century from Smith and Steve O'Keefe outspinning his counterparts Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

The guile of O'Keefe was the chief reason behind Australia managing to take 20 wickets in that fateful encounter, while South Africa's spinners have been found to lack the bite or threat which could challenge India's batsmen.

The Proteas' three-pronged spin attack went for aplenty at Vizag with the slow bowlers often targetted by India's batsmen as a means to release pressure built by tight lines maintained by Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander.

Any analysis on South Africa's performance in the first Test suggests the sheer need to contain India's scoring rate and figure out a way to penetrate the defences of their compact batsmen.

On the other hand, questions continue to linger over a couple of middle-order players in the South African line-up, who are yet to make an impact on the Test arena but given the current rebuilding phase, the tourists are not really spoiled for choices.

Pujara eager to dominate proceedings

Although Rohit Sharma won all the accolades for his twin tons in his maiden outing as India's Test opener, Cheteshwar Pujara played an exceptional knock in the second innings which helped his side set the daunting 431-run target.

At one stage of his innings, Pujara was fiddling around at eight off 66 balls attracting criticism from fans but then raced to his half-century and overtook Rohit's score before being dismissed for 81.

 Pujara had an ordinary tour of the West Indies ©Getty Images

Pujara had an ordinary tour of the West Indies ©Getty Images

Coming at the back of a mediocre show in the West Indies, India's Test specialist would be eager to reestablish his batting credentials and battle it out on a predictably spinning track.

Muthusamy vying to make a mark

Debutant Senuran Muthusamy could take only one wicket but impressed with control over the ball and created several chances with his sharp left-arm off-spin.

Meanwhile, the 25-year-old's application at the crease while batting lower down the order provides South Africa with a potential all-rounder to bolster both departments of the game.

Yet to be dismissed in international cricket after facing 214 balls in tough conditions and making vital contributions of 49 and 33, Muthusamy seems to be the temperamentally strong cricketer the struggling side is desperately in need of.


India: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma (vc), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Senuran Muthusamy, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Rudi Second