Centurion Test preview: 5 things we can expect from India, South Africa

India's Wriddhiman Saha, left, with teammates Shikhar Dhawan, center, and Hardik Pandya, during their training at Centurion Park in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Centurion Test preview: 5 things we can expect from India, South Africa

PRETORIA: India need to win the second Test against South Africa to avoid another chastening loss outside the subcontinent. Ahead of the Centurion game, which starts on Saturday, here are five things to watch for.
 
REMEMBER THE TITANS
Time was when the cynics joked that you got the Australian baggy green cap along with your New South Wales one. Similar things were said of Mumbai in India, and Barbados in the Caribbean, teams with a long and proud tradition of providing the spine of the national side. But the Centurion-based Titans are taking it to another level. Regardless of whether Chris Morris, who first played for Gauteng, or Lungi Ngidi, whose roots are in Natal, gets to play, the franchise will have seven players in the starting XI. Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram at the top, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock in the middle order, and Morne Morkel as the most experienced bowler. Impressive.
 
SAHA FOR THE DROP?
Since MS Dhoni played the last of his 90 Tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December 2014, Wriddhiman Saha has kept wicket in 29 of the 33 Tests India have played, with hamstring injuries ruling him out of the other four. He took five catches in both innings at Newlands, but looked lost with bat in hand. In eight innings in South Africa and Australia, Saha has made just 119 runs. Could India be about to drop their best keeper?
 
LEFT IS RIGHT?
To what lengths will Virat Kohli and the team management go to open with a left-right combination? If Shikhar Dhawan is not the answer, and the net sessions suggested that was the case, then that would mean a complete rejig in order to accommodate Parthiv Patel at the top. In the last of his many comebacks, Patel scored 42, 67 not out and 71 while opening the batting against England. But that was on home turf. The last time he played in a Southern Hemisphere Test was January 2004, Steve Waugh’s farewell in Sydney. He was not even 19.
 
RAHANE REDUX
“Before the first Test, no one thought that he should be in the eleven and now suddenly people are looking at the other option. For us as a team it’s all about finding the right balance. We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, the talk of the town and all those sorts of things.” That was Kohli’s rather terse response to a question about Ajinkya Rahane, his deputy. But a lengthy net session and slip-catching practice suggested that Rahane, who scored 96 in Durban on India’s last tour, would indeed come into the equation at Centurion. Just do not expect the think tank to admit that they blundered by leaving him out.
 
ALL-PACE GAMBIT?
Even on the verdant green pitches that greeted them in New Zealand in 2002 — the highest total on either side in the two Tests was 247 — India never forgot their spin-bowling tradition. The idea of an Indian XI without a spinner is akin to contemplating scones without clotted cream. Kohli was non-committal when asked about an all-pace attack, but surely that would be a change too far. If Umesh Yadav or Ishant Sharma did come in, that would mean an even more tardy over-rate and a potential ban for the captain. Besides, pace and bounce should also mean some joy for Ashwin. After all, the king of off-spinners, Muttiah Muralitharan, took 12 in two Tests here.


THE OPEN, DAY TWO: Who is contending at Carnoustie?

Updated 20 July 2018
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THE OPEN, DAY TWO: Who is contending at Carnoustie?

SECOND ROUND: Several stars started the second round with work to do, the cut mark looks like it will be at the 3-over or 2-over mark. Tiger Woods, Phil MIckelson and Jordan Spieth are all over par so need a decent round to stay for the weekend. It is wet in Scotland, for the first time in a while, here is how the big names are faring...

ZACH JOHNSON, 6-under 

The 2015 champion again showed he is to be feared on links courses as he fired a fine 4-under 67 to tak the clubhouse lead. One of the best putters around he will surely be in the mix come Sunday. "Everything is coming together to a point where I should be in contention more often," the American said. 

TOMMY FLEETWOOD, 5-under 

The Englishman came into the tournament as one of the favorites and on the evidence of this round it is not hard to see why. The course record holder (set last year) fired a brilliant 6-under 65, can he get his hands on a first Major this weekend? "We are only two days in, come Sunday I would like to be in the same spot. You put all the practice in for this and you have to go out and play golf, but it is easier said than done," he said. 

RORY MCILROY, 4-under 

Another solid round for the 2014 champion, he played within himself, but would have wlaked off the course thinking of what might have been. He gave himself plenty of birdie opportunities but is not far off the lead and will doubtless fancy his chances, especially if he can make a few more putts. "Right now I am feeling good about it," he said. 

BROOKS KOEPKA, 1-under

The back-to-back US Open champion had a good day at Carnoustie. Having shot a 1-over 72 on Thursday the American went into red figures on Friday firing a 2-under 69 to lurk not too far behind the leaders. 

TIGER WOODS, level-par

The Big Beast just missed a birdie putt on 18 that would have left him in red figures. He will, however, be pleased with his day's work and do not be surprised to see him challenge the top of the leaderboard over the weekend. After the round he said: "I think it is going to be a crowded leaderboard. There are going to be a bunch of guys with a chance to win...it's going ot be a bunched leaderboard." 

SERGIO GARCIA, 4-over

The Spanish former Masters champion will not be around at the weekend after a second-round 75 saw him finsih on 4-over. Not even a bit of luck on the 18th, when his ball was heading for the bottom of the famous Barry Burn but it hit the wall of the waterway and popped back onto the fairway. 

DUSTIN JOHNSON, 6-over

The American came arrived at Carnoustie as the favorite but left as the first world No. 1 not to make the cut since Luke Donald in 2011. A one-over 72 was not enough to repair the damage done by his opening 76 on Thursday. 

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FIRST ROUND: That's it then, everyone has had a go at this famous old course and it is American Kevin Kisner who leads on -5 after the first day. Northern Ireland's hope Rory McIlroy sits three shots back on -2, and after a topsy-turvy round, Tiger Woods is level.

It was not such a good day for 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, who dropped four shots on the final four holes to finish +1 for the day. Here's a look at the biggest names and how they fared on day one...

DUSTIN JOHNSON, 5-over

He came in as a lot of people's favorite to win the Open Championship, but the American world No. 1 has had an afternoon to forget. Never finding his rhythm, he shot a five-over-par 76 and now faces a massive uphill struggle just to make the weekend. Hope for the rest of the field...

TIGER WOODS, Even-par

The 14-time Major winner finished off his first round with a par, and he's level par for the day too. A very neat and tidy round of 71 for the American, and he looked a more composed and in-control figure than he has done of late. His successful holes were met with raucuous cheers, might be a crowd favorite for the Claret Jug?


KEVIN KISNER, 5-under

The American was the early leader firing a 66 in the early benign conditions. The world No.33 was not thought of as a possible winner, his best finish at an Open was tied for 54th last year. Can he stay near the top of the leaderboard until Sunday?

 

RORY MCILROY, 2-under

Looking for his first Major in four years the world No.8 started with a solid round of 69. Two-under for the tricky back nine will give him confidence heading into the second round as he goes in search of his second Claret Jug. 



DANNY WILLETT, 2-under

The Englishman has endured a torrid time since he memorably won the Green Jacket two years ago. But a recent upturn in form continued at Carnoustie and it would not be a shock to see him up near the top of the leaderboard into the weekend.



JON RAHM, 2-under

The tempestuous Spaniard has all you need to win a Major, but is yet to get his hands on one of the top-four prizes. He made a good start in Scotland, carding a 69 in a round that featured only two birdies. He will fancy his chances of contending come Sunday evening.



RICKIE FOWLER, 1-under

Three birdies and two bogeys saw the American open up with a solid, if unspectacular round. The world No. 7 has long down well on links courses so expect him to make a challenge on Friday and Saturday in a bid to win he first Major.



JORDAN SPIETH, 1-over

It all started so well for the defending champion. He was 3-under through 11 and looking set for the clubhouse lead. But then disaster struck on the 15th where a double bogey was followed up with bogeys on 16 and 17 to leave him to card a 72.



JUSTIN ROSE, 1-over


A birdie at the last would have at least left him leaving the court with a smile, but deep down he would know that being one of the earlier starters he should have done better than an up-and-down round of 72. He is desperate to add to his one Major and he has work to do if he is to get Major No. 2 this week.



PATRICK REED, 4-over

The Masters champion talked a good game coming into the tournament (when does he not?). But he was left scratching his head after a 75 left him well off the pace at Carnoustie. He never really got going after a double bogey at the second left him playing catch up, a bogey on the last summed up his day.