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India's predicted playing XI for the third Test vs South Africa

India Nets Session - India Tour to South Africa
India Nets Session - India Tour to South Africa
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Sai Krishna

A first-ever Test series win in South Africa is what is on the line for India as they take on the hosts in the third and final encounter in Cape Town, starting Tuesday, January 11.

The visitors will be boosted by the return of regular Test captain Virat Kohli, who missed the Johannesburg Test with upper back spasms. Meanwhile, India will be without Mohammed Siraj, who injured his hamstring in the previous game and hasn't fully recovered.

So how will India line up as they attempt to make history in the Rainbow Nation? Here is their predicted playing XI for the third Test.


Openers: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal

1st Betway WTC Test: South Africa v India - Day 1
1st Betway WTC Test: South Africa v India - Day 1

KL Rahul has been India's standout batter in the Test series so far. While his Boxing Day Test hundred helped the visitors take the lead in the assignment, his gritty first-innings fifty in Johannesburg greatly lessened the eventual margin of defeat. The 29-year-old will relinquish captaincy duties with Kohli's return, but he will remain one of India's most important players in Cape Town.

Rahul's partner, Mayank Agarwal, has played a few eye-catchingly positive knocks at the top of the order. But the opener is yet to record a significant score, something he will hope changes in the third Test. Mayank's positive strokeplay against the hard new ball and ability to counter bounce will be key assets for India.


Middle Order: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk)

India Nets Session - India Tour to South Africa
India Nets Session - India Tour to South Africa

Kohli's return should ensure that India's middle order wears a settled look. The unfortunate Hanuma Vihari should be the man to miss out, with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane having shown semblance of form in the second innings of the previous Test. India's under-fire middle-order trio will be under serious pressure to deliver once again, especially with the series on the line.

Rishabh Pant has been in the firing line of late, and India have a capable replacement in Wriddhiman Saha waiting in the wings. But Pant's keeping has been solid for the most part on this tour, and India are already playing with four frontline bowlers. So despite his shot-selection shortcomings, the attacking southpaw should be backed to produce a knock of note in Cape Town.


All-rounders: Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur

2nd Betway WTC Test: South Africa v India - Day 2
2nd Betway WTC Test: South Africa v India - Day 2

India's all-rounders have been excellent so far. While Thakur has provided regular breakthroughs as the fourth option and come up with a few handy runs lower down the order, Ashwin's free strokeplay and ability to shore up one end have served India well. Although Ashwin doesn't seem to be at his very best with the ball in hand, the off-spinner is bound to contribute in some way.


Bowlers: Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah

India Nets Session - India Tour to South Africa
India Nets Session - India Tour to South Africa

Siraj's absence means that India have to choose between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. They are likely to go with the former, largely due to his new-ball ability but also because Umesh has never played a Test in South Africa and might take some time to adjust to the conditions in Cape Town. Thrusting him into the series decider might not be a great idea.

Bumrah and Shami, who weren't at their very best in Johannesburg, will hope that the intense bowling workload they have faced over the last two Tests doesn't come back to haunt them. Both skilful quicks will be eyeing a return to form at the venue which treated them well back in 2018.


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Q. Will India win the third Test against South Africa?

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Edited by Sai Krishna
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