After deciding bravely to bat first in the Wanderers Test against South Africa, India was bowled out for just 187 runs, raising the prospect of a washout in the third and final Test of the series. After the losses in the previous two Tests, a third straight loss will put South Africa within kissing distance of the No.1 spot in Test match rankings. And India will have reinforced its reputation of underperforming overseas.

While India’s unbeaten record at the Wanderers would perhaps inspire the team to put up a stronger fight in the remaining days of the match, the historical record may be of little help, given that the pitch seems to be tailor-made for fast bowlers, against whom Indian batsmen have been found wanting.

South Africa will get a major boost in ratings if India does tumble in the third Test as well. The International Cricket Council’s Team Rankings Predictor shows that it will be less than one point behind India in its race for the No.1 spot.

And if South Africa continues its winning run against Australia in March, it could edge out India from the top spot in Test rankings. South Africa will grab the top spot if it defeats Australia by a margin of two Tests in the series, which begins on 1 March on home turf.

But even a draw will mean that South Africa will remain only two points behind India at No. 2, which means India will still be under pressure when it goes to England in August. Given India’s historical record in England, and poor performances outside the subcontinent, retaining the top spot will not be easy for the Indian team.

Much will depend on India’s batsmen and their ability to handle pace on unfriendly pitches.

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