About the Match
One of the most highly awaited series in recent times is finally here. India has been dominant over the last eighteen months but the skeptics are calling for them to repeat those results away from home as well. Their extended away season begins with one of the toughest challenges in all of cricket. A tour to South Africa. The Proteas are smarting after being provided some rank turners on their visit to India and will look to dish out the same treatment by banking heavily on home advantage.
Can India create history and beat South Africa or will they wilt in conditions that are as foreign as they get for their players? We look ahead to the first test between India and South Africa.
The South African test side is currently ranked 2nd
in the world behind their opponents India and will see this is as the perfect opportunity to start their fight back to the top. Ottis Gibson, the new South African coach has stated his ambition to see South Africa return to the number 1 ranking publicly.
Gibson has a full-strength squad to choose from in this series and before the first test match. Returning from injury are players such as Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Chris Morris all of whom would walk into any test side in the world.
Quinton De Kock and Faf Du Plessis are recovering from minor niggles while AB De Villiers is returning to Test Matches after a gap of almost 2 years. This means that the team is going to be faced with some tricky selection questions as it tries to pick the best team for all conditions.
The South Africans are a high-quality side with plenty of batting firepower and a bowling attack that is probably among the best two in the world. We think that the South African batting order picks itself with Dean Elgar likely to open with Aiden Markram followed by Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, Faf Du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
It is a tough selection because Chris Morris, Dale Steyn, Keshav Maharaj and Theunis de Bruyn are left out of the side. Maybe Maharaj could play in place of Phehlukwayo but that depends on the kind of surface that is dished out to the teams.
Most of the attention will be on Amla, De Villiers, and de Plessis for the runs but we think that Dean Elgar and de Kock will play an equally important role in the series. Amla has been a little out of touch lately and has struggled on wickets with a lot of movement. This could be a very important series for his future in cricket.
Among the bowlers, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander are the ones that stand out as the main threats. They are very different kind of bowlers but have the knack of picking wickets. Rabada will come at the batsmen with serious pace while Philander will test their techniques to the maximum.
South Africa will go into this series as favorites but know that they have an opposition that is unlike the Indian teams of past.
For the first time in a long time, an Indian team traveling abroad is not speaking about competing or doing their best but about winning. There is reason for this optimism as the Indian side has won its last 9 test series, a record-equaling feat, and is led by an Indian captain that is desperate to win abroad.
Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have said that they will be judged by their performances abroad and are happy to lay their reputations on the line. So what is the reason behind this new found confidence? After all, the same set of bowlers were thrashed in South Africa, England, Australia during India’s last cycle of tours abroad.
This time, though, the fast bowlers are coming in with the confidence of having played pivotal roles in India’s victories at home and having learned from their past mistakes. They are also fitter and stronger than ever before, another Kohli effect on the team.
Mohammad Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah are all excellent bowlers with different styles of bowling. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar will swing the ball at a reasonable pace while Shami will get awkward seam movement. Umesh Yadav will generate the most pace, Ishant the most bounce, and Jasprit Bumrah will attack the stumps.
India will have to decide who they start with in the first test. We see India going in with 6 batsmen, a wicketkeeper, one spinner, and three fast bowlers for the first test match.
Hardik Pandya may have to miss out in favor of Rohit Sharma who is in the form of his life at the moment and could be crucial for India at number 6. Ashwin is all but certain to start the first test as the lead spinner while Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, and Ishant Sharma are the likely picks for the first test.
India’s batsmen have done well in South Africa on earlier tours as well but the team has struggled to take 20 wickets. If South Africa does decide to go in for green seaming tracks then it may end up working in favor of the Indians by making their bowlers more effective.
India will also have to decide between their first choice openers and we think that Vijay and Dhawan will start the series. India must try and get 350 or more in the first innings to help set up the match after which they can genuinely try and push for a win.
Pitch and Conditions
The forecast is for some cloudy weather and some rain around the third day of the test match. With plenty of live green grass being left on the pitch, we can expect a lively first test match that will test the batsmen. The team winning the toss will almost certainly bowl first. We don’t see this test match lasting the full five days with a result likely on the fourth day.
India has never won a series against South Africa in South Africa. They have only won 2 out of the 17 test matches played there. The conditions will be against them, history will be against them, and they do not have any match practice going into the first test either.
We are backing South Africa to win this first test pretty easily.
Back South Africa to win