The Ultimate Boxing Day Contest

First things first – kudos to Jacques Kallis on a most wonderful career – arguably the greatest all-rounder the game has seen. He turns is focus on to the one prize that has eluded South Africa and himself – a World Cup. It is a refreshing move and really tells us about the changing Cricket scene. ODIs and T-20s are fast gaining a reputation of being a prize, themselves and moving ahead of Tests as the format players covet most. That is a topic for another day.

Things are supremely poised in Durban and in some sense a 2 test series might just work wonders. How a 5 match test series can be one match too many, we can see right now on Television as England and Australia try to give some meaning to a dead series. This India – South Africa series however has been meaningful right from the time the first ball was bowled about 10days ago.

It is going to be immensely difficult to top off the heroics at the Bull-Ring, but both teams want this match and series so badly that we might just get a match that will be in the same league if not on par with that classic match in Johannesburg. Both the teams had a shot at winning the match, but could not convert due to various reasons – India because their achilles’ heel bowling let them down on the final lap. South Africa also had their achilles’ heel trouble them on the final few yards, their fear of losing.

India had bossed the 1st test for the first four days, mainly due to the heroics from their new No.4 batsman – Virat Kohli. In the very 1st innings, Virat Kohli’s innings was reminiscent of many a knock played by the man he has replaced – The Great One (according to most cricket fans). Fortunately for Virat Kohli and India, the comparison ended right there. The bowlers, led by Zaheer Khan, struck major blows – thanks in no part to that always maligned bowler called Ishant Sharma. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli then batted South Africa out of the game – or so it seemed. Their bowlers could not continue their 1st innings heroics, but they did enough in the end to save the team some mighty embarrassment, with adequate help from Ajinkya Rahane.

South Africa’s problem that came to haunt them was a very familiar one to the objective-minded fans and definitely their critics. Their paralysis in the face of pressure is a very well documented one. Credit to them, then, that they did not let the match be lost, but a draw definitely feels like a loss for South Africa, who were everyone’s favorite to steam-roll the Indians in 4 days. On the positive side, South Africa did end the match very much like the dominant side they have been in tests the past few years.

So what do these teams have to do to seal this “Winner Takes All” contest which has high stakes for both teams? India will have to continue to bat with the maturity Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara displayed – Rohit Sharma, I am looking at you. Their bowlers will have to start it all over again, but that pitch will be less South African and in a very weird way that actually helps the Indian bowlers who will feel more at home. I would actually think India should go in with 2 spinners and 5 bowlers – something that might just help them solve the issues with their bowlers.

As for South Africa, they will need Steyn to hit top gear and Imran Tahir to really earn his spot. Apart from that, they will have to manage their nerves – something they have had success along the lines of Afridi curbing his natural instincts while batting. They will do well to bat with the recklessness Afridi brings – it has definitely done Pakistan good in some big matches.

Prediction: South Africa will get their act just right to give Jacques Kallis the farewell he deserves.

Spoil Sport Alert: Rain forecast for Sunday and Monday.

Prakash Potukuchi [Prakash is the founder of Sportz Cosmos. You can catch him on twitter, here]

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14 thoughts on “The Ultimate Boxing Day Contest

  1. Boxing day test @ SA soil started with a good note for India. Even though Sikhar Dhawan lost his wicket, Poojara and M Vijay are playing steadily and coolly. Vijay is nearing his century and I wish him to do so. Since I feel his play so far as an opener not impressive much. This may be his chance. Bad light stopped play now. Nopes!

  2. This Boxing day test is much more important than the other traditional Boxing day test, where KP is the lone fighter so far. This test will decide who the winner of this round of the bout is. So far, in this series, the greatness of the SA bowling attack in their own backyard is yet to be displayed. There have been glimpses of their dominance but it has not been complete. May be it is too early to say that the next Fab 4/5 or 6 have arrived for India, but they did arrive in style. Indian Cricket lovers can sit back and enjoy even the overseas tours also for the rest of the year, when India is batting without worrying too much about collapses. Of course, we are yet to find a combination that we can rely on overseas, as far as bowling is concerned. Overall a good beginning for the “Men” in blue, as they proved that they are no longer “Boys”.

  3. @ Venkata Krishnaiah Sangubhotla:

    True dat! Vijay, even I was thinking the same, that we need to find another opener, but credit to him for playing a super innings. I hope he makes a big 100. 450+ would be a good score to control the match, but let us not get too far ahead. tomorrow, need to play off 1st session with minimal damage!

    Sai:

    Great points. They will really have started on a grand note if they can seal a win here! they need help from weather and will have to keep up this great work!

  4. If you look at this series, the morning sessions seem to shift the match towards the bowling side, If that happens tomorrow, we are in for a nail-biting finish.

  5. Lol….as you rightly said Roger Laver….we seem to be out choking the Saffas in the decider match of every series. Getting into great positions only to sit on our own bombs. But really disappointing score after the 1st day’s sweat. SA playing confident & positive cricket already!

    Prediction : SA win or a lucky draw.

  6. Red Claw… that is the sad state of affairs. This is totally in SA’s court now….

    They already did their choking in the 1st test. I don’t think they will choke again, unless India can make them chase a 200+ target in 4th innings 😀

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