Captain Kumble doubtful for second test

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Ahmedabad, April 2: South Africa, who gave a good account of themselves against India in the first Test at Chennai which ended in a draw, will enter the second Test beginning here from tomorrow with a slight psychological edge as the hosts battle with injury problems.

India, having already lost talismanic batsman Sachin Tendulkar through a groin injury and the status of captain Anil Kumble and young speedster Ishant Sharma is still in a state of concern. The hosts will have to put up a much improved performance, especially their bowlers, to get the better of the South Africans at the Sardar Patel stadium, Motera here.The visitors will look to drive home their confidence of tackling the hosts' experienced spin bowlers after rallying to draw the first match of the three-test series.

Left-arm seamer Rudra Pratap Singh went wicketless and looked way below his best on his return from injury.

It is still unclear if young fast bowler Ishant Sharma, out of action with a foot injury since returning from Australia, will recover in time to play.

The tourists amassed almost 900 runs in the Chennai match, with India's Virender Sehwag smashing his second career Test triple hundred. The visitors did a lot better than what was expected of them against the potent spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, who took eight wickets as the Proteas' batsmen batted with purposefulness on a benign pitch.

South Africa coach Micky Arthur is confident of his side doing well. He also said that they had studied Virender Sehwag's innings at Chennai and have come up with plans for the batsmen.

The visiting coach also stated that they had all the bases covered in the bowling department.

''We have bowlers who can hit the deck, bowl conventional swing, can reverse it and also have an underrated spinner who can be more than a handful if the wicket takes turn,'' Arthur said.

Meanwhile, South African captain Graeme Smith is happy with his batsmen and expects them to play equally well in Ahmedabad despite the likelihood a turning track.

''In terms of our capabilities against spin, our techniques and game plans are pretty sound,'' Smith told reporters after the first Test.

South Africa are chasing a sub-continent treble after winning a Test series in Pakistan last year and in Bangladesh last month.

South Africa's top order fired in Chennai where opener Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla scored centuries and Smith cracked 73 in the first innings. Equally impressive was the fightback by their bowlers, spearheaded by Dale Steyn who took four of the last five wickets to restrict India's first innings lead to 87 after Sehwag's blitz and Rahul Dravid's composed century.

But the middle-order is yet to fire, especially Jacques Kallis, who, although usually South Africa's best player of spin, fell cheaply in both innings.

While Kumble agreed that the touring side have adapted well to the sub-continent conditions, he said he fancied India's chances of bowling the visitors out twice.

''We definitely have the potential to ensure we take wickets on any surface,'' Kumble said.

''Going into Ahmedabad and Kanpur, we definitely fancy our chance of doing that,'' he added.

Meanwhile, the pitch here has attracted the most attention after the boring draw in the first Test in Chennai. The chief curator Dhiraj Parsana however, has assured a much better surface than the previous one which will be a 'sporting' one.

He said that they have done their best to produce a sporting track which will have a tinge of grass helping the quicker bowlers.

''Traditionally the Motera track has assisted spinners but the number of draws has been a worry for some people, I am aware of that. All I can say is that we have prepared a pitch that will make for a good contest.

''The ball could dominate early but there will be plenty in it for the batsmen too,'' Parsana said.

Three of the last four Tests in Ahmedabad have been drawn but all those matches were played during the later part of the year - from late October to mid December - when the weather is a little cooler in the city. The teams: India (From): Anil Kumble (c), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Mohd. Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (w-k), Irfan Pathan, R P Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Piyush Chawla.

Coach: Gary Kirsten South Africa (From): Graeme Smith (c) Ashwell Prince (vc), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, (wk), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Monde Zondeki, Charl Langeveldt. Coach:Micky Arthur.

UNI

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