Live: IND V SA 3rd Test, Day 1 | Live Scores | India Vs South Africa | 3rd Session, SA Batting

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PREVIEW: Kohli hasn’t scored a century in 25 innings, since he made 136 against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens in November 2019. He has been on wane since South Africa’s tour to India a month earlier. In his first 139 innings, including that series, he averaged 54.77. Since then, he has averaged 29.18. With only five half-centuries among his last 25 trips to the crease, it’s not a reach to say he might have lost his place in the XI were it not for his position as captain. But you don’t dump someone as vital to the cause as Kohli, in several ways the embodiment of the champion team India have become under his watch, because he isn’t batting as well as he could. His presence is worth more than merely runs.

Even so, it’s not as if all India will need to seal what would be their first Test series win in South Africa is their captain. Indeed, in Kohli’s only Test at Newlands, in January 2018, he scored five and 28 and South Africa won the first match of that rubber by 72 runs. The bigger truth is that India have not won any of their five Tests at this ground, and have lost three. Then again, before last week South Africa had not beaten India in the six Tests the teams had played against each other at the Wanderers.

If that casts the second Test in a rare light, it should. South Africa won having limped down the highway from their former fortress of Centurion, where India outplayed them to prevail by 113 runs: only the third time in 27 Tests that a visiting team had been successful there. To turn that disappointment around in a week, and in the shadow of the immediate retirement from Test cricket of Quinton de Kock, South Africa’s sole world class batter, after the first Test, spoke of a side that had deeper reserves of character than had been thought.

Performances like the one Elgar’s team delivered in Johannesburg can galvanise teams – especially if they come after they have played below themselves. Of course, South Africa will be back in the doldrums should India win in Cape Town. What happened at the Wanderers would be damned as a false dawn, and calls for heads to roll would re-emerge from the gloom into which they have been cast. For captain Kohli, victory would represent a missing jewel in a crown that already sparkles with a series triumph in Australia and a 2-1 holding lead in England which might as well be a series win come this summer in the UK.

Considering what’s at stake and with men like Elgar and Kohli in charge, don’t expect any backward steps to be taken at Newlands over the course of the next few days. Instead, expect leaps of faith high enough to clear the nearby brewery and the mountain beyond. Yes, this is that big.

When: Tuesday, , 10:30 Local Time

Where: Newlands, Cape Town

What to expect: A pitch to build a dream on; South Africa’s fairest surface, neither a belter nor the fast bowlers’ best friend. Spinners? They’re only as special as anyone else. Newlands is also no-one’s enemy, but a proper stage on which to play proper cricket. That said, this will be the first pitch prepared for an international by newish curator Braam Mong: no pressure. Happily, one of the most majestic grounds anywhere in the game is no longer a building site. Less happily, the result is a dully corporate slab of featureless glass and concrete beyond the boundary. The best thing about that is that plenty of sunshine will be reflected in those faceless windows: the forecast is good.

Team news

South Africa: Why tamper with a team few believed could win the second Test, until they did?

India: Virat Kohli will return from the back spasm that kept him out of the Wanderers match – at the probable expense of Hanuma Vihari, who replaced him. Mohammed Siraj’s hamstring injury has forced him out, which could mean a recall for Ishant Sharma.

South Africa Squad: Dean Elgar(c), Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Verreynne(w), Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Duanne Olivier, Lungi Ngidi, Prenelan Subrayen, Beuran Hendricks, Sisanda Magala, George Linde, Wiaan Mulder, Sarel Erwee, Ryan Rickelton, Glenton Stuurman

India Squad: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant(w), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Jayant Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, Mohammed Siraj, Priyank Panchal, Shreyas Iyer

Live: IND V SA 3rd Test, Day 1 | Live Scores | India Vs South Africa | 3rd Session, SA Batting
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