Johennesburg: South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on Tuesday said his team has managed to outperform the famed Indian batting line-up in the ongoing Test series, which has proved to be the difference between the two sides in the opening two matches.
While two of the three highest individual scores in the series have been scored by Indian batsmen, the Proteas have nevertheless still outbatted the tourists.
Virat Kohli's 153 in Centurion and Hardik Pandya's 93 at Cape Town both have come in virtual isolation as they got very little support from other batsmen.
In contrast, South Africa have managed to build important partnerships — Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers putting on 114 runs for the fourth wicket in the first innings in Cape Town, and then De Villiers and Dean Elgar stitching 141 for the third wicket in the second innings at Centurion — which eventually made the difference.
"The difference between India and us is that there are more batsmen contributing to partnerships," Du Plessis said on the eve of the third and final Test.
"So that's going to be once again very much a key factor in conditions like that. As a batsman, if you do get in, you try and string together a nice partnership," he said.
The Indian bowlers have managed to rise to the occasion picking up 20 wickets in both the Tests but it is the batting failure that has let the team down. South Africa won the first Test in Cape Town by 72 runs and the second Test in Centurion by 135 runs.
"Both teams have been taking 20 wickets, and I assume that that will happen again. We've got a strong bowling attack in conditions that will suit them. The onus will be on the partnerships in the batting department," Du Plessis stressed.
The series might be firmly in their pocket, but the South Africa captain expects India to come hard in the final Test.
"I think once again, India will come back with a point to prove. They are a proud team they wouldn't want to go down 3-0 so we're expecting once again a good challenge from them.
"For us as a team, it's pretty simple. Just keep doing the things that we've been doing right through the series and do it well," Du Plessis said.
The Indian team management have received a lot of flak for their selection policy in the first two Tests and Du Plessis said he too was "surprised" by the frequent tinkering with the playing XI under Kohli.
Under Kohli's leadership so far, India has never played the same playing XI in a Test match.
"That was surprising actually for me. I didn't know that statistic. When you don't follow a team closely you don't really have an eye on it all the time. But I read something that they've changed their team every single time (in last 34 Tests) and that's remarkable," Du Plessis said.
"I don't see how we will ever be able to do that. We try to have a bit of consistency and string together a team. It's obviously worked for India in India. In terms of the opposition, it doesn't make a difference.
You plan for everyone, prepare for everyone and whoever plays, it's not like it surprises us," he added.
Du Plessis said if opportunity comes they would like to take the game away from India in the third Test.
"It was just the nature of the wicket at Newlands. You were always in the game. Even in that first innings, we had them under real pressure and Hardik Pandya played a great knock. We had ourselves to blame because we had two chances. I would hope that if we get the opportunity to put them to bed, we will do it a little bit sooner," he said.
Despite the scoreline, India look in good spirits going into the third Test and would be buoyed by the fact that they have never lost a Test at the Wanderers in four visits here.
"Amazing stat! If you had asked me if they've ever lost a game here, I'd definitely put something on it and say they've lost here. Some grounds, you just get a bit of confidence in the way that you play and then you run with it," Du Plessis said.
"They've played some good cricket here. The last Test match we played against India here was a fantastic Test match. They've come this time around with a very good seam attack and if you have that, you will be able to compete. We have got a fantastic seam attack as well so it will be the battle between those two," he said.
Du Plessis said the Proteas would look to exploit India's inept batting line-up again at the Wanderers.
"For me, it will be about keeping their batsmen under pressure. It's been a pretty quiet series for most of them, and if we can keep doing that we will change that stat.
"They are a team that's under pressure being 2-0 down in the series. The way that you start is really important. If they have a good start with the bat or ball, that's when you can put a team down," he said.
Du Plessis hinted that they might go with an all-rounder instead of a spinner tomorrow. He confirmed that opener Aiden Markram is completely fit, but also suggested that out of form Quinton de Kock retained the teams confidence to bat at no.6 should they play five bowlers.
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