India V South Africa, 2nd Test, Day 5

South Africa are 232 runs behind, SA 296 & 115/3, India 643/6 dec – India need 7 wickets to win

Just over 34 overs were bowled on the 4th day due to a combination of rain, a wet outfield and bad light. All this means that South Africa are a lot closer to saving the Test match and getting the much sought after series win.

Having said that SA have lost Smith, Petersen and Kallis. Add to that the absence from the batting line up of Mark Boucher, the form of Ashwell Prince, and JP Duminy’s susceptibility to spin, and with 98 overs still to be bowled, India will still fancy their chances of finishing the job.

India also have the added incentive of maintaining their No.1 status in the world rankings should they level the series.

Hashim Amla would appear to be the main obstacle in India’s way, he already has scores of 253 not out, and 114 so far in this series, and on 49 not out at the moment, he could be on the verge of yet another big one.

Hopefully the bad weather will stay away as it promises to be an exciting final day, it would be a shame if the match was decided by rain instead of cricket. Expect SA’s remaining batsmen to be given a thorough examination from the spin of Harbhajan and Mishra.

The spin duo’s battle with Amla should go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match.

Also, will Prince and Duminy finally repay the selectors faith in them with some important runs? Or on this occasion, crease occupation. We’ll find out tomorrow.

India are now 8/13 with Paddy Power to finish the job. The Draw is 6/4 with VC Bet and 888Sport, while an impossible South African victory is 250/1 with Bet365 and Stan James, can’t see why it wasn’t this price yesterday as SA’s chances of winning were no better then than they are now.

India V South Africa, 2nd Test, Day 4

South Africa are 341 runs behind, SA 296 & 6/0, IND 643/6 dec

By my calculations South Africa will have to bat well into the final session of Day 5 if they are to save this match and stave off the inevitable ‘chokers’ headlines that will await them in the home press.

If they bat for five sessions and score 500 runs, you would still have to fancy India to get the 150 plus runs needed to level the series. Graeme Smith and co will need a backs-to-the-wall performance far superior to any past showings if they are to pull this one off.

India won the crucial battle in the passage of play shortly after Mishra was out. The score was then 384/6 (a lead of 88) and with Laxman bogged down and Dhoni new at the crease South Africa sensed a sniff of a chance to come back into the match.

Between them, Laxman (143 no) and Dhoni (132 no) battled through and saw off the pace threat, they then went on to pummel the South African bowling on their way to a potentially match winning unbeaten partnership of 259 runs.

One crucial point to take out of this Test match is the amount of dropped catches from the South Africans, they were not simple cathces by any means, but the sort of catches we have come to expect a talanted fielding side – like the South Africans are – to take more often than not.

It’s hard to see any way out for Smith’s men from here. With the state of the game and series as it is, the likelihood is that SA will only be looking to defend from here onwards, therefore MS Dhoni will know he can be as attacking as he wants and have men round the bat for the spinners.

The 1/2 with Totesport on an Indian win looks quite a good price to me, if you fancy South Africa to hold out for the Draw you can get 15/8 with Bet365. An unlikely South African victory is 66/1 with Sky Bet and Stan James, it could be 500/1 and I still wouldn’t touch it though.

India V South Africa, 2nd Test, Day 3

India are 46 runs ahead with 5 wickets remaining, IND 342/5, SA 296

A great Test match is developing here as South Africa fought back to give themselves a lifeline with 3 wickets for 5 runs at the end of day 2.

At 331/2, South Africa were down and out, then came a mini collapse (compared to Day 1) which saw JP Duminy finally contribute to the Test match when he got rid of Sehawag (165) to break his 249 run partnership with Sachin Tendulkar (106).

Graeme Smith’s captaincy will probably come under fire again as Duminy picked up the wicket of Sehwag in his one and only over, against England he looked dangerous while continually under bowled, and it dosen’t take a rocket scientist to work out the pitch here might turn a bit.

On 342/5 at the close India are still in control of the match and they have VVS Laxman still at the crease with MS Dhoni waiting in the wings. They will be looking to add at least 100 more to give themselves a comfortable 1st innings lead but need to be careful not to collapse as SA did and hand the momentum back.

Earlier in the day Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel put on a stubborn 35 run partnership for the last wicket to hold India up, it was only a brief delay as Sehwag and Gambhir put on 73 for the 1st wicket from just 9.2 overs, they must be warning up for the ODI’s.

Hard to know what twists and turns might be left to emerge here, if SA can wrap up the Indian innings for less than another 50 runs tomorrow then they are still just in the match, and it keeps things interesting. If Laxman can drag India up to a 150+ run lead then it will surely be India’s match to lose.

India are still the bookies favourites at 8/15 with Bet365 and Stan James. The Draw is 3/1 with Ladbrokes and South Africa are 8/1 with Paddy Power.

India V South Africa, 2nd Test, Day 2

South Africa are 266 for 9 at stumps.

An early set back for South Africa in the shape of an injury to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher didn’t appear at first to have any impact as Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla both scored centuries. Petersen came in for the injured Boucher and opened, with AB de Villiers taking over behind the stumps.

At 228/2 at tea the series was South Africa’s, surely it was impossible to lose the Test from here, then came a collapse which must again question South Africa’s temperament when all the expectations are on their collective shoulders.

During a mad spell of 38 for 7 after tea, Harbhajan Singh turned the game on it’s head with 3 wickets in 8 balls. After the fall of Kallis, South Africa’s weak spot was exploited by Harbhajan, next he got rid of the struggling Ashwell Prince for just 1, and then got rid of JP Duminy for a first ball duck, again exposing Duminy’s weakness against spin.

The warning signs have been there for some time now with these two (Prince & Duminy), in fairness SA have stuck with them through thick and thin to date, but it could end up as a costly decision if they go on to lose this test, they certainly owe their side some runs in the 2nd innings.

As for India, with their tails now up, and assuming they wrap up SA’s innings early on, their batsmen will relish the chance to respond to a score of well under 300, with the pitch still playing well and their batting line up bolstered by the returning VVS Laxman, they will fancy their chances of posting an impossing 1st innings total.

I can only see Dale Steyn stopping India now. For me, the only chance SA have is for Steyn to rip through the Indian batting again, the momentum seems to be with Indians and I think even he is going to struggle to pull this one back for them.

If South Africa aren’t to live up to their ‘chokers’ tag they have some work to do to turn this around now. The bookies have now got them as a 9/2 (with Stan James & William Hill) chance to win. The Draw is 7/2 with Paddy Power and Bet365. India are 4/7 with Totesport and Ladbrokes.

India V South Africa, 2nd Test

India will be looking to level the series when the 2nd Test starts later today in Kolkata, after getting a good hammering in the 1st Test, India have one chance to stave off a rare home series defeat in this shortened best of two matches.

Having VVS Laxman back will be a big bonus for the Indians, they badly missed him in the 1st Test as their inexperienced batting line up couldn’t handle Dale Steyn and co. They also have headcase bowler Sreesanth available for selection again and he seems certain to come back into the side.

South Africa have only one concern, and it is a big concern. Graeme Smith is struggling with a fractured finger, can’t see him missing this match though for anything, think if the finger was hanging off Smith would still play, he will just want to be part of things and to lead by example as he usually does.

The bookies have this match down as a tighter contest, after totally misjudging the 1st Test they have The Draw as favourite at 23/20 with Bet365. India are 2/1 to level the series with Ladbrokes, Stan James and Totesport. And South Africa are 3/1 with Sportingbet and William Hill.

Expected this to be a closer contest myself, SA will need to bat as well as they did in the last match if they are to guarentee a series win, but they have been known to choke in sight of the finishing line in the past, although not so much in Test matches. India have a couple of big name players back and won’t want to surrender their home record, think a watching brief might be the order of the day to start with, and then reassess the match as it develops.

India V South Africa, 1st Test, Day 4 Betting

Looks all over for India

I had a feeling that India’s middle order might struggle under pressure, but not to the extent that it would collapse in the manner that it did.

After the wicket of Sehwag the score was 192/4, just 18 overs later and they were all out for 233, with 7 wickets falling for just 41 runs. The main protagonist was Dale Steyn, he took 5 wickets for just 3 runs in a devastating 3.4 overs after tea.

All in all, the Indians just couldn’t live with Steyn who was magnificent, he underlined his status as the No.1 Test bowler in world cricket with 7/51 in the 1st Innings, just for good measure he also removed Virender Sehwag in the 2nd Innings, with India following on.

Sehwag had earlier in the day completed his century, a quite pedestrian one by his standards, his 109 came from 139 balls. His wicket sparked the 1st Innings collapse (233 all out) that leaves India on the verge of defeat at 62/2 following on.

India are still 259 runs behind with only 8 wickets left, and with a full 2 days of the match still to go things look bleak for them. Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar will resume at the crease on 15, but with not much in the way of support for him even he will need a miracle to save this match.

In the betting, South Africa are now just about unbackable at a best price of 1/6 with Totesport and Sportingbet. The Draw is now 9/2 with Paddy Power and Bet365, with an Indian miracle 66/1 with Sky Bet.

India V South Africa, 1st Test, Day 3 Betting

180 overs bowled on time in two days now, thats including taking two off for the change of innings, what is going on? Expect that might slow down a bit now that South Africa are bowling.

Another good day for Graeme Smith’s men, in particular Hashim Amla who scored a massive 253 not out, his overnight partnership with Jacques Kallis (173) was worth 340 runs.

India’s batsmen didn’t try to block out the 15 minutes that Graeme Smith gave them to bat after he declared on 558/6. They played their shots as usual on their way to 25/0 at stumps.

With Paul Harris back in the side and the ball turning it will be interesting to see how he gets on tomorrow, could be carnage if Sehwags still batting when he comes on, expect to see JP Duminy get through some overs and he will most probably be SA’s most dangerous bowler.

As I wrote yesterday I believe the Test will be decided when or if SA get through the openers and expose the inexperienced middle order, there will be a massive burden on Sachin Tendulkar’s shoulders to nurse the novices through. If Steyn and Morkel can make early inroads, then they could open the game up yet.

Further cuts in the odds for The Draw, it is now into 4/11 with William Hill, Totesport and Stan James, South Africa are 13/5 with Bet365.

India are a massive 20/1 with Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and VC Bet, for any chance of that outcome, Sehwag and co will need to score around 750 in two days and bowl SA out cheaply on Day 5. That is probably how Sehwag is currently reading the game, but not me!

India V South Africa, 1st Test, Day 2 Betting

Jacques Kallis gave another batting masterclass with an unbeaten 159 on day 1 of the opening Test. He was superbly supported by Hashim Amla, who also scored a century (115), as the two put on an unbeaten 3rd wicket partnership of 285, to rescue their side when they were in trouble on 6/2 in the 7th over.

Ashwell Prince continued his poor form with a 10 ball duck, and SA finished the day on 291/2 after winning the toss and batting.

In the betting, The Draw is still favourite and is now into a short 8/15 with Sky Bet. South Africa are now into 9/4 with William Hill and 888Sport. While India are now out to a massive 16/1 with Boylesports, Sportingbet and Stan James.

Not convinced that this is going to be the cast iron draw the bookmakers seem to have already decided it is.

When it’s South Africa’s turn to bowl, if they can can make the new ball work for them and get rid of the openers early, there appears to be a potential ‘soft’ middle order waiting to be exposed (with the obvious exception of Sachin Tendulkar).

You have the inexperienced Murali Vijay at No.3, debutant Subramaniam Badrinath at No.5, MS Dhoni batting at 6, and reserve wicketkeeper and yet another debutant, Wriddhiman Saha batting at No.7. This could be a batting recipe for disaster, the Indian batting hasn’t looked this fragile for years.

India V South Africa, 1st Test Betting

Arguably the top two sides in Test cricket, India and South Africa start a 2 match Test series in Nagpur later today. The series already looks to be an intriguing one, with both sides suffering their own problems during the build up.

India, the home side are missing both Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh through injury, and now they have a doubt over VVS Laxman who still has a finger injury from the Bangladesh series.

All this leaves their much vaunted batting order looking a bit fragile for once, meaning the revitalised Morne Morkel and the top class Dale Steyn must be licking their lips at the prospect of getting into them and roughing them up a bit.

Overall though, South Africa’s preparation hasn’t been great either. First they had the untimely resignation of coach Mickey Arthur, for whatever reason, as the truth seems to have yet emerged. Then they decided to sack the selection panel, and all this on the back of a hard pushed series home draw against England.

SA also have a couple of selection problems of their own as well. Do they go back to Paul Harris after dropping him for the last Test of the England series? After all, England’s batsmen appeared to finally work out how to play him.

They also have a problem with Ashwell Prince opening, whatever way they try to dress it up, he cleary dosen’t like the roll, and had a disasterous series batting there against England.

On the plus point, they finally got Wayne Parnell into the side, and he should complement Steyn and Morkel.

With both sides troubled in the build up it looks a hard match to call, the fitness of Laxman could also play a large part in the outcome of the match. The usual batsman friendly nature of Indian wickets is probably why the Draw is the favourite in the betting at 20/21 with Paddy Power and Stan James.

An Indian victory can be backed at 9/4 with Boylesports. While South Africa are 7/2 with Bet365 to upset the hosts, as ever the toss will be vital.

The 7/2 on SA could look good if they bowl first and put some pressure on India’s batting with some early wickets.

For UK fans the game is live on Sky Sports 3 at 3.55am, with play due to start shortly after.