Virat Kohli & Co. will be up for a tough battle when facing the South African pacers on a green top at the Newlands in Cape Town in the first Test starting Friday.
The No. 1 Test team in the world enjoyed a lot of success in the sub-continent during the last two seasons, but now face their toughest battle against a team that is looking to draw first blood. India haven’t enjoyed success in any of their previous away tours in South Africa and now present themselves with a chance to change an unwanted history. It has been a long 25-year-wait for a series win.
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The last time India were here in 2013, they lost the two-match series 1-0. South Africa will be banking on the earlier successes against the Asian giants and pin the hopes on their bowlers to get them past the line. The last time the two sides played in India back in 2015, the hosts won 3-0 and South African skipper Faf du Plessis feels they have a score to settle. Altogether, it is going to be an interesting battle with all the talk leading to the build-up of the three-match series.
The conditions will be tricky for the visitors given all the dryness and heat with the pitch assisting the pacers. Adaptability and approach will be a key asset for Kohli’s men when they take the field and have a go against the hosts. The Proteas pacers will be going heavy and high right from the start and it will be interesting to see who will partner Murali Vijay atop among Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Their opening foundation will be a key for the middle order to chip in.
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Kohli will hope to lead the team with the bat and the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will look to play alongside him in that middle order. The trio had a decent time in their last series in 2013. Faf pointed out in pre-match conference that Kohli isn’t the only threat. “Obviously Virat is a very good player. His stats don’t lie. We are hoping we can put some pressure on him. If we can keep him quiet, we have a much better chance. But I see it as South Africa against India, I don’t see a rivalry between us,” said the Proteas skipper.
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The series can be seen as a clash between pacers of both the teams as India are well-equipped in that department and have variety in the attack. Kohli is likely to go in with three pacers and look to use the pitch well just as the hosts have set it up for their own favour. It will be a huge test of character for them and a lot of onus will lie on Mohammed Shami, who is likely to be Kohli’s go to man in the pace department. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav could fill up the supporting role.
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For South Africa their bowling quartet has some big names blended with rich quality. Morne Morkel will be the fiercest among their pack as he will hit the deck hard and use the bounce in his favour. Kagiso Rabada will be the trump card and has been bowling exceptionally well off late. And then there is Vernon Philander, who bowls well in home conditions and backed by Steyn, who could miss the line-up. An all-rounder in Chris Morris serves them well.
For India, Ravindra Jadeja is battling a virus and is expected to miss the Test. So the cynosure of all eyes will be Ravichandran Ashwin. Spin will play some part and the ace spinner’s experience will come handy. Keshav Maharaj on the other hand is likely to turn up for the Proteas. Kohli will face a dilemma regarding batsman Rohit Sharma or all-rounder Hardik Pandya. But with the conditions up on offer, the former could likely set in.
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India: 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan/KL Rahul, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rohit Sharma/Hardik Pandya, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami
South Africa: 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 AB de Villiers/Temba Bavuma 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo/Chris Morris, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn/Morne Morkel, 11 Keshav Maharaj
Time (IST): 2:00 pm
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