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Newlands Set for Series Decider

Within the space of one ball in the Durban Test, the entire face of the series changed.

The moment entailed Sreesanth steaming in and delivering a ball to Jacques Kallis, South Africa's best batsman, from short of length that darted in towards the batsman's throat and flew to gully.

Until that moment the Test seemed very much like the days of Kapil Dev in that Zaheer Khan, would very likely end up with four or five wickets, while the rest of the attack would play somewhat of a cameo.

However all of that changed as the Indian bowlers seized the moment, and with it the momentum, while South Africa collapsed. Twice.

And so the world’s two best teams head into the Newlands tied at 1-1 and the series at stake.

South Africa, on the other hand, suddenly have more questions than answers a week after  they had looked set to claim India’s current number one status.

South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Paul Harris, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

India (probable): 1 Gautam Gambhir, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 VVS Laxman, 6 Cheteshwar Pujara, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Sreesanth

Let’s not forget that there are still a number of positive elements to this South African line-up. The trio of Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have been in sublime form this year, featuring in the top five run-getters in the series so far, with Kallis leading the way with 228 runs.

The fast-bowling combination of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel is quite possibly the most lethal opening attack in world cricket at present, and has exposed the ineptitude of the Indian batsman with 15 and 12 wickets respectively in the series so far.

The Indian batting revolved heavily around that of the second innings master VVS Laxman to keep them afloat in the second Test, however, other batsman will have to step up their performance on a traditional batting friendly Newlands surface if they are to take this series.

The Indian bowling attack looked a totally different unit under the leadership of Zaheer Khan, picking the top order wickets and building pressure on the South African batsman. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh picked up six wickets which will do well for his confidence coming into a ground which offers increasing assistance to slow bowlers by the third day.

While the Sehwag vs. Steyn confrontation has been the highlight of the series so far, the Second test has ignited another cameo dual in Graeme Smith's tussle with Sreesanth, which should prove fascinating to watch in Cape Town.

This surface will present Rahul Dravid with an opportunity to improve his poor record down south. Dravid has just one hundred in 20 innings in the Republic, and will hope to better this at Newlands tomorrow.

The pitch is being hailed as a batsman’s paradise with plenty of bounce to assist the seamers. Rain is predicted for New Year's Day, but the sun and the mountain peak should emerge come the first day’s play.

It is not surprising that with an Indian win in the last Test that pundits are falling over their heels at the prospect of an Indian triumph down South, however the fact remains that South Africa are a great side that is well balanced, playing at a ground that has served them well in the past.

India will struggle here as Morkel and Steyn once again give their batsmen the once over.

South Africa still head into the Third Test as favourites, and rightly so considering the depth of talent and ability in their line-up.

Prediction: South Africa to win

Interesting Statistic: Newlands is a bastion for South Africa, where they have notched up 14 victories in 21 Tests, since readmission to Test cricket in 1991. All the three defeats have come against Australia and South Africa trounced India in 2007 at Newlands Park to take the series 2-1.  






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