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IND vs SA: With series victory in sights, India look to make history at Newlands

Indian captain Virat Kohli | Sportzpics for BCCI / Deepak Malik

Most of the talk before the series began was centred around the weaknesses of this South African team. That this the best chance for Virat Kohli and India to win a test series in this country and tick South Africa off their list.

They were right in saying that too. South Africa had just a single world-class batter and a highly inexperienced bowling attack in its lineup. India's squad on the other hand was filled with match-winners led by their enigmatic skipper Virat Kohli.

The script went as planned for India in the first week where they bulldozed their way through to win the first test. On that 5th day afternoon of the 1st test, not many gave South Africa a chance with talks of a whitewash imminent too. And after losing their sole world-class batter in Quinton de Kock to retirement, the Proteas were in a deep mire.

But the South Africans have an inspirational skipper too and it was Dean Elgar who picked his team from that mire almost single-handedly. He needs to be ready to do it again for one last time in the 3rd test which begins on the 11th of January.

India will have their captain back after missing the last test through a back spasm. Kohli's average of 26 in Test cricket since 2020 is a serious concern. Any other batter in the world would have lost his place by now. But you can't judge the effect of players like Virat by merely the runs he scores. His presence alone would bring a sense of reassurance and calmness to the side.

India clearly missed him in the 2nd test, especially during the 4th innings where South Africa chased down 240 quite comfortably. The result wouldn't necessarily have changed but the intensity and body language of the Indian side wouldn't have dropped like they did if Kohli was there.

But who will Virat come in place of? Pujara and Rahane probably saved their test careers with fifties in the 2nd test. So it looks likely that the impressive Hanuma Vihari will miss out. Rishabh Pant's shot in the 2nd innings drew widespread criticism including that of coach Rahul Dravid.

Shardul Thakur has repaid the selector's faith with a brilliant performance with both and ball. With a sporting wicket at the Newlands, Ashwin would have a role to play with the ball this time after some impressive knocks. India's batting has remained under par apart from the 1st innings at Centurion.

South Africa will probably go with the same lineup that won the 2nd test. The underfire Aiden Markram is due for a big innings. Keegan Peterson, Van Der Dussen and Bavuma have all made valid contributions but none of them has gone onto score a century.

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