India in SA
Beware Durban jinx, SA!
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Morne Morkel (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Firm favourites they will probably be to win the second Test against India from Boxing Day, but the Proteas need to break a recent Kingsmead mini-hoodoo if they are to clinch the three-match series ahead of schedule.
While the Indians nursed the wounds of their Centurion innings defeat for two days at Sun City, they would at least have been buoyed by their opponents’ strangely wretched record at the next battleground since 2008/09.
The hosts’ post-isolation record overall at Kingsmead remains fairly decent: played 18 Tests, won eight, drawn six and lost four.
But South Africa have been little short of feeble in their last two Tests there, both of which have resulted in heavy, embarrassing losses, and will be wishing for third time lucky.
Last summer, in the second Test against England, Graeme Smith’s team capitulated by an innings and 98 runs to go 1-0 down in a series eventually shared 1-1.
They got a near-par sort of total of 343 after batting first, but then England replied with an unexpectedly buxom 574/9 declared, mostly thanks to centuries from Ian Bell and Alastair Cook.
And the Proteas wilted to 133 all out in their second turn at the crease, Paul Harris top-scoring with 36 from the No 9 spot and the visitors’ off-spinner Graeme Swann claiming man-of-the-match for his game haul of nine for 164.
South Africa are likely to field nine survivors from that rare pasting on Boxing Day, with only Makhaya Ntini and JP Duminy no longer in the picture, although the latter is in the pre-match squad and may have an outside chance of inclusion as his own off-spin can be a useful little supplementary device at times.
The previous season was just as miserable for the Proteas at Kingsmead, when Australia pummelled them by 175 runs in the second of three Tests to clinch the series and undo all the euphoria of South Africa’s historic triumph Down Under not long before.
It was the game when rookie Aussie left-hander Phillip Hughes exploded onto the scene with innings of 115 and 160, although he has subsequently failed to hit such lofty heights again.
South Africa’s big problem was their disastrous first innings of 138, Duminy getting more than half the runs with an unbeaten 73.
Still, India have not yet won in three Test appearances in Durban -- lost two, drawn one -- and were thumped by 174 runs last time (2006/07).
Ashwell Prince’s first-innings 121 and Ntini’s five for 48 in India’s second knock were keys to that win, which levelled the series 1-1 before the Proteas clinched it at Newlands.
Many South African fans will doubtless be hoping for a track with meaningful bounce, to favour in-form Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel once more, although a balancing act may come into play – sometimes there can be perils in creating something too close to a lottery environment when you are already 1-0 up in a series.
The Proteas will be mindful also of the likely return to the Indian side of experienced left-arm strike bowler Zaheer Khan, a positive development for them after the slaughter their attack experienced from Jacques Kallis and company at SuperSport Park.
A mixed bag of weather is in the long-range forecast for sultry Durban -- the general trend at Kingsmead is for attractive batting conditions when the sun shines on a consistent basis and some aid for the seamers when the clouds roll in and the light is ordinary.
As Swann demonstrated last season, the spinners can prosper too ...