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The need for speed.

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INDIA have been warned against attempting to prepare a spin-friendly surface for the third and final Test against South Africa in Kanpur. The home side are 1-0 down going into the final Test on Friday following an innings and 90-run thrashing in Ahmedabad within three days. That defeat was brought about largely thanks to the dominant visiting attack, which boasts young pacemen Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn as well as the experienced Makhaya Ntini.

And rumours suggest India have laid a deteriorating pitch at the Green Park in a bid to help their own attack. But Proteas coach Mickey Arthur has warned the hosts that the pitch plan could backfire spectacularly. He said: "We have our bases covered either way. If India are gambling on working on a pitch that will crack, as media reports suggest, they might be in for a shock. We could be looking at uneven bounce then on the fourth and fifth days, and fast bowlers could prove quite a handful.

"But we have not closed our options yet, we also have another option in the left-arm spin of Robin Peterson." Arthur is confident that his side's simple strategy of making things tough for the Indians will see them in good stead again and secure a series victory.

He said: "We realised we needed to be a lot more aggressive, we spoke about really hitting the deck at the right length, over after over. "We talked about roughening up the Indian batsmen with short deliveries, and more importantly, the follow-up deliveries after the bouncers. "We realised after all those discussions that the crucial aspect was to force India's batsmen to play outside their comfort zone, which is the front foot.

"We decided we will never allow them to settle down in that forward zone, but instead force them back with aggressive bowling. Hit the deck, hit the deck in the right area - that is what we kept repeating to ourselves."

Steyn has been rewarded for his impressive form with the ball by moving up to joint No.1 in the ICC Test bowling rankings alongside Muttiah Muralitharan. Steyn has now taken 75 wickets in 11 Tests, and has claimed 12 wickets so far in the two matches in India.

Sach ready for IPL

SACHIN TENDULKAR may be out of the third Test against South Africa, but fans have been reassured that the Mumbai Indians captain will be fit to lead his side when the IPL gets started later this month. The 34-year-old missed the second Test thrashing in Ahmedabad because of a groin injury picked up in the tour of Australia earlier this year.

And he has already been ruled out of the final match of the series in Kanpur as India look to square the series. Mumbai's superstars will undergo a preparatory camp on Friday, a week ahead of the beginning of the new eight-team Twenty20 league.

Although Tendulkar is unlikely to be rushed into a tough training regime, Mumbai coach Lalchand Rajput is confident the Little Master will be ready when it really counts. He said: "Sachin is a player who does not like to miss any games. I am sure the physio will take care of him and he will be all right in time for the IPL."

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 8, 2008
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