|Player:||RS Dravid, SR Tendulkar, V Sehwag, W Jaffer, JH Kallis|
|Event:||India in South Africa 2006/07|
DateLine: 1st January 2007
India will be seeking an improvement in their top order batting in the series-deciding third and final Test against South Africa starting at Newlands Tuesday.
"The top order batting can be a lot better," said Indian captain Rahul Dravid after his team lost the second Test by 174 runs in Durban Saturday. India have yet to make a solid start in the series and have failed to reach a hundred in any innings without losing at least three wickets. Attacking opening batsman Virender Sehwag has made only 45 runs in four innings and is under particular pressure, although Dravid refused to be drawn on whether Sehwag's place was under threat.
Fellow opener Wasim Jaffer showed signs of form in Durban, scoring 26 and 28, but Dravid, batting at number three, has managed only 49 runs in four outings. Dravid was on the wrong end of dubious umpiring decisions in both innings in Durban.
Dravid pointed out that both teams had struggled to make good starts on pitches which have given the bowlers some help. That could change at Newlands, however, where batsmen generally have an opportunity to play their strokes on true pitches, although preparation for the Test might have been affected by unseasonal rain in recent days.
Sachin Tendulkar, who made his only Test half-century of 2006 in the first innings in Durban, made a thrilling 169 on his previous Test appearance at Newlands ten years ago and will hope to get 2007 off to a good start.
With the series locked at 1-1, both teams could make changes. Jacques Kallis, South Africa's leading batsman, missed the Durban Test because of back pain and is expected to return to action in his home town, although he will have a fitness check Monday. Left-arm spinner Paul Harris will almost certainly make his debut on a ground where slow bowling is usually a factor. South Africa did not field a spinner in the first two Tests.
India could also make a change to their bowling attack, with fast bowler Munaf Patel or off-spinner Harbhajan Singh likely to be considered ahead of VRV Singh. Dravid said managing the team's bowling resources was important in back-to-back Tests.
"We've got two fast bowlers and a spinner who have done a great job for us and a lot of work as well," he said, referring to Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Anil Kumble. Selecting either Patel or Harbhajan ahead of seamer VRV Singh would take some of the workload off the men who have carried the Indian attack so far.
The fitness of Indian wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will also be checked ahead of the Test. Dhoni suffered bruising to his right middle finger while keeping wicket in Durban and took a painful blow on the same hand while batting. Dhoni was India's most successful batsman in the second innings in Durban, making 47, and earned praise from Dravid for the way he has adapted to South African conditions.
Defeat in Durban was a big blow to India's hopes of winning a series in South Africa for the first time, following their 123-run win in the first Test in Johannesburg, and they will be hard-pressed against a resurgent South African team on a ground which has favoured the home nation. South Africa have won ten of 16 Test matches at Newlands since the country returned to international cricket in 1991. The only visiting team to taste success at the famous ground in the shadow of Table Mountain has been Australia.
South African captain Graeme Smith said the win in the second Test had been a major boost to his team but warned that there would be no over-confidence. "We've always performed well going into Newlands in back-to-back Tests. But our feet are firmly on the ground. We know what we have to do. It all starts all over again."
Squads: South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, Herschelle Gibbs, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Andrew Hall, Jacques Rudolph, Paul Harris and Morne Morkel.
India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Gautan Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, VRV Singh, Dinesh Karthik and Harbhajan Singh. Umpires: Daryl Harper (AUS), Asad Rauf (PAK). Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (SRI).