SA bat, pick four quicks; India hand Bumrah debut

South Africa chose to bat v India
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Four fearsome fast bowlers – among them an all-time great – on a grassy pitch. A tearaway who has taken limited-overs cricket and its unhelpful conditions and made it his own personal playground. The batting equivalent of that player. The New Year’s Test at Newlands has been among the most highly anticipated in recent times and India and South Africa have already begun delivering gifts with nothing more than their team selection. Oh, and for the record, the hosts won the toss and will be batting.

India have gone in with aggression, and recent form, in mind. They have preferred Rohit Sharma, who scored an ODI double-century and the fastest T20I century last month. Ajinkya Rahane, often the first name in the XI, especially playing away from home, was left out. Jasprit Bumrah‘s was trusted to reprise his effectiveness as a wicket-taker in Test cricket as well and was handed a debut. Hardik Pandya, who did not play India’s most recent Test series, will be shouldering the burdens of a fourth seamer. There was no space for Ishant Sharma. R Ashwin is the only spinner in the XI. Virat Kohli appeared rather pleased at the toss, since he was looking forward to bowling on a pitch that had no shortage of green. “We saw four quicks warming up and we want to get into their batting order with the new ball.”

And that brings us to the return of Dale Steyn, set to play his first international match since November 2016, five wickets away from becoming the highest wicket-taker in South African history. The man who won the Test in which his shoulder broke, Kagiso Rabada, will join Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander to lay claim to being the best fast bowling unit currently out there in Test cricket. Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj will be giving them support.

“It’s a punt,” Faf du Plessis said at the toss after deciding to put runs on the board. On experience, he said the surface would be a bit slow on the first day, but there will be movement all through the 90 overs. Though South Africa have decided to go with only five specialist batsmen two of them are named Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. Their wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock is more than handy if a failing innings needs resurrecting and Philander, Steyn and Maharaj aren’t exactly mugs down the order.

India: 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

South Africa: 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock, 7 Vernon Philander, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Kagiso Rabada

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