India v South Africa
Saturday 19 October 05.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
India made it a record 11 home series wins in a row by defeating South Africa in Pune. It was punishing on the tourists who, once again, lost the toss and were in the field, conceding a whopper.
The result was never in doubt once India had dropped anchor. Mayank Agarwal followed his double in Vizag with 108 and then Virat Kohli purred his way to a double of his own, the first time he had top scored in a first dig in six.
Kohli insists India will not take their foot off the gas. Before the Test Championship was introduced we would have suggested India would have struggled to find the intensity. But every point counts these days.
India picked three pacers and two spinners for Pune, which meant all-rounder Hanuma Vihari missed out. The balance of that XI looks the smartest way to go again.
South African struggles
South Africa probably can't wait to get home but, in truth, they have been beaten as soon as the toss goes against them. They are desperate for a wearing, crumbling fourth-innings pitch to bowl on (with scoreboard pressure) to try to reduce the gulf.
Their record in Asia also backs up the need for outside help. They have lost seven of their last ten (five years) and have made more than 250 only times in all innings. Their first innings average is 200.
Although the likes of Dean Elgar, Quinton De Kock and Faf Du Plessis have shown ability against the spinners, precious few others have. Aiden Markram's weakness against spin and on the road has been exposed. And he knows it. He has hit out at an “object” and damaged a wrist, ruling him out. Zubayr Hamza comes in.
To make matters worse, their best spinner, Keshav Maharaj will miss the final match with injury. The ineffective Dane Piedt may have to come back in. Lungi Ngidi might play his first game of the series in place of Anrich Nortje.
This could be a road
There has been only one Test played at Ranchi. In 2017 India and Australia played out a draw on a road. India responded to Australia's 451 with 603. The game petered out in the third innings with Australia making 204 for six. There was still turn, though. Ravi Jadeja claimed nine wickets in the match while Aussie Steve O'Keefe also found purchase.
Draw price appeals
India are [1.40], South Africa [12.50] and the draw is [4.8]. The price about the home team will disappear if they bat first. But there is potential for movement in the other two.
For both to shorten up significantly, South Africa are going to have to bat first and go big. A minimum would be 400. That [12.50] could become [7.0] post toss but only with 400 would it come close to halving.
What is likely to prevent South Africa from getting too small is the stalemate price. That will be the big mover if the tourists show gumption because the market will believe that if they can bat well, what could India do? There could be an overreaction. It could well be close to even money with the expected India solid start in their first innings.
Kohli all the rage
Kohli topped for India in the first dig in Pune and he was well-backed to do so. He has a 45 per cent win rate in the market in the last two years. Betfair Sportsbook go 9/5 and it's still value. Chet Pujara got a double on this ground in that Australia match. He is rated at 3/1. Agarwal is also 3s and the destructive Rohit Sharma, who destroyed South Africa in game one, is 9/2.
For South Africa, there doesn't seem much for Elgar, who got a big ton in Vizag, or the obdurate Du Plessis to beat in the first innings to take South Africa honours. Sportsbook agree, making them joint 7/2 favourites.
Rabada and Ashwin on fire
As discussed in Betfair's new cricket podcast, Cricket…Only Bettor, this week you could do a hell of a lot worse in punting life than taking Kagiso Rabada at 3s for top South Africa bowler and Ravi Ashwin for top India at 7/4. Both bets are not skinny enough in terms of how often they win.