India are still well on top of what has been a very one sided second Test in Calcutta. As I write this the West Indies are 339-4, following on. They need 478 to make India bat again, but they need there is still over a day and a half to play.
The second Test between South Africa and Australia promises to be a much more exciting one. Australia must try to recover from being blown away for 47 (words I will never tire of writing) and losing the Test after having a first innings lead of 188 (also words I will never tire of writing). It’s a daunting task, but South Africa have a fairly daunting one as well – They mustn’t choke.
Apart from the fire and competitiveness that usually defines a South Africa v Australia Test, this will be notable for some peripheral contests as well. Most notably it may be Ricky Ponting’s last Test. He failed again in the first Test (though everyone bar Clarke failed for the Aussies) and if the new chairman of selectors wants to make his mark for the series against New Zealand he may have an easy target. Khawaja, Ponting’s replacement when the latter was injured last January, is in the side for the injured Shaun Marsh and if he gets a good score it’s hard to imagine the selectors not wanting to see him and Marsh batting together very soon. Clarke has also suggested that time may be up for Mitchell ‘He bowls to the left…’ Johnson if he doesn’t fire in Jo’burg. Certainly the teenager Pat Cummins is likely to come into the side, I would guess for the ‘stiff and sore‘ Ryan Harris. (Which, with Paul Harris possibly returning to the South Africa side, would be a relief for me.) It may then be a bowl off between Cummins and Johnson to see which of them is in the XI for the first Test against the Kiwis. Brad Haddin has the benefit of there not being a strong candidate to replace him, but his shot selection when his country are in trouble is so bad Australia might soon want to try anyone else behind the stumps.
South Africa are rather more settled, though Tahir did not get a chance to show himself at Newlands, so Paul Harris may fancy his chances for a return. Jacques Rudolph, after Yorkshire signed a different overseas player for next season, needs a score to maintain his rather tenuous place in the side.
Between Australia’s batsmen barely knowing which end of the bat to hold these days and South Africa having a history of chocking, there are the makings of some more batting collapses. However, South Africa showed a enough nous in their second innings that I think they can do enough to win.