Inevitably, everyone wants another Test between South Africa and India after the three-match series ended 2-1, with South Africa dominating the early stages and India getting progressively better. A fourth, maybe even a fifth Test would have been a fitting finale. Instead, six ODIs will take place in the space of 16 days, two of them at the venue South Africa criticised for having a subcontinental style pitch, SuperSport Park.
At least the pitches are unlikely to be the source of much discussion in the limited-overs matches with a strong likelihood of flat pitches and big totals. And there’s still a strong contest to be expected – this remains a battle between No.1 and No.2, except now the roles are switched. South Africa are the top-ranked ODI side in the world, though Ottis Gibson continues to stress that it means very little in this format, while India are second with only a point separating the two sides.
Rather than focus on widening the gap, South Africa are using this series to mark the start of “Vision 2019,” a catchy name for their campaign to win the World Cup. They’ve set aside the next few months to trial different combinations, so expect to see new faces and funky tactics, with the view to using the time between September and June next year to fine-tune their game plans ahead of a tournament they are desperate to triumph in.
India have not even mentioned the World Cup yet. For them, this is more about being able to win a series on this trip. An ODI trophy, especially after South Africa took the series in India in late 2015, will be a prized possession.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WWWLL
In the spotlight
Neither Faf du Plessis nor Gibson are concerned about Quinton de Kock’s form but the rest of South Africa is. With 71 runs in the Test series off the back of a lean domestic twenty-over campaign, de Kock looks out of touch. There are suggestions from the inner circle that he requires a change of lifestyle to bring focus back to his game. Du Plessis and Gibson hope a change of format will do the same thing. They might be right – the last time de Kock made a score of significance was in a fifty-over game when he smashed 168* against Bangladesh last October. He will need a few like that to provide reassurance of his ability.
Rohit Sharma had his place questioned during the first two Tests and scored just 78 runs in four innings before being dropped for the third. But in the ODI format, Rohit is the only batsmen in the world to have three double-hundreds to his name, the most recent of which came in India’s series against Sri Lanka, just before they left for South Africa. Rohit remains a white-ball darling, and India will hope his best on this tour is yet to come.
AB de Villiers’ injury opens a spot in the middle-order that du Plessis confirmed will be filled by Aiden Markram, meaning Khaya Zondo will have to wait to make his debut. The rest of the batting is familiar, with JP Duminy coming off a run of good scores in the domestic one-day cup. Lungi Ngidi may have to wait for his first fifty-over appearance if South Africa opt for Morne Morkel, with Imran Tahir likely to start as the sole specialist spinner.
South Africa (probable): 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Aiden Markram, 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
India seem set to become more flexible with Ajinkya Rahane’s role after having pegionholed him into the opening slot earlier last year. He could be playing at No. 4 given there will be pace on offer throughout the innings in conditions in South Africa and England, where the World Cup will be played. They seem to be set with whom they want at Nos 5, 6 and 7: Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni. Another decision they will have to make is whether they play two specialist spinners.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Ajinkya Rahane/ Manish Pandey, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Mohammed Shami/Umesh Yadav
Pitch and conditions
Durban’s surface can sometimes be a little slower than others around the country. It will definitely not have the pace of the Highveld venues the teams have just come from. Rain is forecast for the early afternoon but should stop later on, though the cloud cover will remain with temperatures in the early 20s.
Stats and trivia
The last time South Africa and India played in a bilateral ODI series against each other was in October 2015. The series see-sawed, but South Africa emerged triumphant in the end, winning 3-2.
India have only won five out of 28 ODIs in South Africa, none in Durban.
MS Dhoni needs 102 runs to become the fourth Indian batsmen to 10,000 ODI runs.
“AB is not playing this game so Aiden Markram is coming into his place and we’re giving him an opportunity to bat in different places in our batting order. That’s also a great way to evolve your own game, learn different situations at different times and it will be a nice learning curve for him.”
Faf du Plessis explains why Aiden Markram will slot in for AB de Villiers.