TELFORD VICE, Mohali
IF SA could make time stand still they would take themselves off to the nets and bat and bat and bat until the practice pitches play like the prematurely aged surface they are likely to encounter in the second test in Bangalore on Saturday. And then they would bat and bat and bat some more …
But there is no making time stand still anywhere, nevermind in a country that never sleeps. However, Wednesday is as close as India gets to a standstill.
Happy Diwali, everyone – and especially to a SA team who jetted in to Bangalore yesterday eager for reasons to be cheerful in the wake of their loss inside three days in Mohali.
Not that SA are sitting on their hands waiting for their lot to improve. What do you do if you can’t stop time? You speed it up.
So, at SA’s last training session in Mohali on Monday, a patch of pitch in the nets was purposefully roughened and the frontline batsmen took their chances against throwdowns that zigged and zagged this way and that.
South Africans will be heartened to hear that JP Duminy, one SA’s better players of spin and a decent spinner himself, had an extended session.
Duminy missed the Mohali mauling because of a hand injury, and his return in Bangalore could be crucial to the cause.
Hashim Amla also spent a long time in the nets. His 43 in the first innings in Mohali is his highest score in 10 trips to the crease on this tour, but he was bowled without offering a stroke for nought in the second dig.
Less encouragingly, Dale Steyn, who did not bowl in the second innings because of a groin strain, was a spectator for most of the session.
Steyn’s 90 wickets in Asia is the most by a foreign fast bowler in test history and he adds exponentially to SA’s strength regardless of their opposition and the conditions.
But that fact is that spin served SA better than seam in the first test, what with 15 of India’s 20 wickets falling to the slow stuff.
Indeed, for all the fuss made about SA’s struggles against spin, India were marginally more convincing when facing Imran Tahir, Simon Harmer and Dean Elgar.
But the home side’s champion is off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and leg spinner Amit Mishra are more than able lieutenants.
So, India will order another turner for Bangalore and send their batsmen to the nets to sort themselves out. How might they do that?
Not easily, according to Praveen Amre, who will be remembered by South Africans as the first Indian to score a test century in their country – at Kingsmead in November 1992 – and by Indians as a fine player of spin.
“They don’t have confidence in their defence against spin,” Amre told the Indian Express. “Without that confidence you can’t go down the track or go on the back foot.
“The fear of being stumped or lbw makes them nervous. They are not willing to take that risk – they just play from the crease, pushing the bat around.
“It’s important to understand that my generation of batsmen had better quality spinners. If you just stood at the crease those bowlers would eat you up. You had to go forward or back or else you had no chance.
“These days batsmen just want to train against bouncers or seaming deliveries. How many of them play against spin for long in the nets?”
Amla and Duminy, for a start …