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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 January 2021

Virat Kohli targets No1 ranking in Test batting as India aim for South Africa series clean-sweep

South Africa without Markram in Ranchi Test after opener injured his hand lashing out in frustration at his performance in Pune

India captain Virat Kohli is closing in on the No1 ranking among Test batsmen. AFP
India captain Virat Kohli is closing in on the No1 ranking among Test batsmen. AFP

The series is done and dusted and the Proteas are down and almost out. India have made the three-match Test series a no contest, with their batsmen and bowlers outperforming the visitors by a country mile.

But the third game of the series in Ranchi on Saturday is still a Test and there are world championship points to be had. And then there is No 1 ranking among Test batsmen that is within reach of India captain Virat Kohli.

Kohli is one point behind Australian stalwart Steven Smith – on 936. Two more and Kohli will become the top-ranked batsman in the world, to go with his status as the best in ODIs.

It has been that kind of a series; Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out due to a back injury but even without him, the Indians held the upper hand against a South African side weakened by the retirements of Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla.

In the first Test, there was some fight; Faf du Plessis’ team scored 431 in reply to India’s first innings of 502. But apart from that, there was nothing much else.

Rohit Sharma scored two centuries in his first Test as opener, fellow opener Mayank Agarwal scored a ton and a double in the two games. Kohli scored an unbeaten double hundred in Pune to end the contest in the first innings itself.

On the bowling front, spinner Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, along with pacer Mohammed Shami, have been pretty much untouchable; after the first innings in the opening game, the visitors’ totals have been 191, 275 and 189.

The Ranchi Test will most likely go the same way if India win the toss and bat first. Pace bowler Kagiso Rabada is the only South African who looks incisive but he has been bowled into the ground over the last season.

To top it all, struggling opener Aiden Markram has been ruled out after injuring his hand in anger following his second innings duck in Pune. Talk about rubbing the wound in salt.

The only way the Proteas can compete is by batting first and posting a decent total. If the pitch in Ranchi deteriorates appreciably, then they will have an opportunity to poke holes in India's defence. If not, then it will be more of the same.

Published: October 17, 2019 06:54 PM

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