CAPE TOWN: India's status as the world's number one Test team will face a fierce examination when they come up against second-ranked South Africa in a three-Test series which starts at Newlands on Friday.
South Africa will be banking on their formidable fast bowling attack to dismantle India's strong batting line-up but after nine successive Test series wins India are brimming with confidence – and a belief that they can thrive in any conditions.
Six of India's winning series were played at home and the others — two in Sri Lanka and one in the West Indies — were in conditions where fast bowling was not a major factor.
The last time India lost a series was when they were beaten 2-0 in Australia in a four-match contest in 2014-15 but it was a series which showed India's batsmen could stand up to raw pace on hard, bouncy pitches.
They scored more than 400 in each of their first innings, losing the first two Tests before drawing the last two.
"The tour to Australia is the one that laid a great foundation for this team," said Indian captain Virat Kohli during his arrival press conference last week.
Kohli hit four centuries in that series and it marked the start of his captaincy, initially in a stand-in capacity in two of the Tests in Australia but afterwards on a full-time basis when Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from Test cricket.
India have a poor record in South Africa, losing five out of six series with one drawn, and winning only two out of 17 Test matches against eight defeats and seven draws.
Significantly, though, they have pushed South Africa hard on their two most recent tours, in 2010-11 and 2013-14, sharing the first series and narrowly losing the second.
Thirteen of the 2013-14 tourists are in the current party and they are a vastly more experienced squad who have become accustomed to winning.
It's the pitch we wanted: Du Plessis
South African captain Du Plessis said on Thursday that the pitch for the first Test against India looked ideal for his team.
"The groundsman has done a fantastic job," said Du Plessis. "It's been very, very hot but it looks like it's going to be a good cricket wicket, nothing too extreme but it looks like it's going to be exactly what we wanted."
After several days of hot weather the match pitch had a mottled appearance. It looked less green than it was when the South Africans assembled on Tuesday but there was still a good covering of grass.
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