Finding the right combination of bowlers will be the biggest headache for both South Africa and India ahead of their second and final Test starting today at Kingsmead in Durban, South Africa.
After fighting out an epic draw in the first Test in Johannesburg, the two top-ranked teams in Test cricket will seek a series win at a venue where South Africa have lost their past four Test matches, including an 87-run defeat by India three seasons ago.
World champions South Africa will almost certainly be without injured fast bowler Morne Morkel, who has been a key member of a three-pronged pace attack together with Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Morkel sprained an ankle early in the second innings of the first Test. His likely replacement is Rory Kleinveldt, who has played in four Tests.
Yet South Africa will be tempted to play Kyle Abbott, who was called into the squad after Morkel’s injury.
Kingsmead is Abbott’s home ground and the accurate fast-to-medium bowler will be keen to add to the success of his sole previous Test when, as a late replacement, he took seven for 29 in the first innings against Pakistan at Centurion last season. He had match figures of nine for 68.
Kingsmead has lost much of the pace that was on offer when current bowling coach Allan Donald had match figures of nine for 54 when India were bowled out for 100 and 66 in 1996-1997, but the Proteas could contemplate going in with an all-pace attack.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir had a poor match in Johannesburg and South Africa have the option of using part-time off-spinner J.P. Duminy, who A.B. de Villiers said was the best spinner in the first Test.
India’s concerns will be centered around the lack of success of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who failed to take a wicket in 36 overs in the second innings after South Africa had been set a world-record target of 458 in Johannesburg.
Kingsmead may be more helpful to Ashwin than the Wanderers, but India could also call on Ravindra Jadeja or Pragyan Ojha, who are both left-armers.
In the most recent Test at Kingsmead, Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Rangana Herath was man of the match after bowling his side to victory with match figures of nine for 128 two seasons ago.
It will also be a worry for India their three pace bowlers at the Wanderers — Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami — bowled a combined 91 overs in hot weather in the second innings.
The 35-year-old Khan, who took his 300th Test wicket in Johannesburg, played a big role in India’s win at Kingsmead three seasons ago with match figures of six for 98.
With only three days of recovery time between Tests, India may look to Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Umesh Yadav to bolster their pace resources.