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Kolkata preview: India desperate for a win

February 13, 2010 19:45 IST

Their number one ranking under threat, India cannot settle for anything less than a win when they go into Sunday's final cricket Test against South Africa who received a big boost with their captain Graeme Smith being declared fit.

Smith had been rendered a doubtful starter because of a finger injury he sustained during practice on Friday but the South African team management decided to take the risk and include him in the team despite a fracture.

The final decision to include Smith in the playing XI of the second Test was taken after the left-hander had two net sessions on Saturday, where he seemed to be at ease while batting.

"The injury will not stop him (Smith) from playing. We never ruled him out," South Africa's media manager Michael Owen-Smith said.

Having crushed India by an innings and six runs in the first Test in Nagpur, South Africa lead the two-match series 1-0 and they just need a draw at the Eden Gardens to snatch the top spot in the ICC rankings from the hosts.

With both the series and their Test ranking at stake, India have been bolstered by the return of VVS Laxman, who is all set to make a comeback at his happy-hunting ground where he scored a 281 in the second innings to script an epochal turn-around in their Test against Australia in March 2001.

In the absence of Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh due to injuries, Laxman, who is back after recovering from a finger injury, will form Indian batting's backbone along with the ever-reliable trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.

The injury-hit Indian line-up was blown away by speedster Dale Steyn, who secured match figures of 10 for 108, in the Nagpur Test where an unbeaten 253 by Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis' 173 also played a major part in the host team's loss.

The loss also brought India's 11-match undefeated streak to an end as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni conceded, "We were outplayed by South Africa in all departments of the game." 

India's pace spearhead Zaheer Khan did not get much support from Ishant Sharma in Nagpur and the think-tank may bring in temperamental S Sreesanth back after his recovery from an injury.

Another reason for worry would be off-spinner Harbhajan Singh's lackluster form as India could not bundle out South Africa despite the good start given by Zaheer in Nagpur.

Harbhajan conceded 166 runs from 46 overs in Nagpur at an economy rate of 3.6 and in his entire bowling he had only one maiden compared to 19 in the match by his South African counterpart Paul Harris.

A green-top Eden Gardens might not have cheered Harbhajan at first sight, but the off-spinner will surely be happy to be back at his favourite ground where he picked 38 wickets in six Tests.

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