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HomeCricket1st Test Preview - Can India start well in South Africa?

1st Test Preview – Can India start well in South Africa?

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Last Updated on 6 years by Charbel Coorey

Over the last few months, seeing India dominate Sri Lanka across 18 internationals has made this series against South Africa feel like galaxies away. Thankfully, the big series is finally here.
Virat Kohli faces arguably his biggest test as India captain so far, and South Africa face the number one side in the world in what promises to be a super Test series. What makes this series potentially very special are all the mini-battles which will occur throughout the series. There are many questions that we are searching the answers for, and it all begins in Cape Town.

Key to a South Africa win

For South Africa, not since their 3-1 series loss in England in July-August has their batting been tested at Test level. Easy wins against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at home have preceded this series, and they will certainly face their toughest test since England, against an improved Indian attack. All eyes will be on South Africa’s top 6 – four out of the six are now in their 30s, and while age is irrelevant as long as you’re good enough, South Africa will have to show some steel against an improved Indian line up. With a lack of quality opposition recently, South Africa’s batting certainly isn’t invincible, and India will feel they can pounce.
AB and Faf reunite.
What will give South Africa their best chance of winning, in my opinion, is their bowling attack against an Indian batting line up that played so much cricket in Asian conditions, especially against Sri Lanka, an opponent that isn’t up to South Africa’s standards. How well will South Africa’s attack test India’s patience and technique on bouncier, livelier pitches?
Kagiso Rabada (my pick for the leading wicket taker in the series), Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel will likely make life difficult for the Indian batsmen, focused on testing their patience around that off stump, with movement and bounce. Then you add the brilliant Keshav Maharaj, who will look to bring his form against excellent players of spin, in definitely his biggest test yet.
I feel South Africa’s bowling attack, arguably the best in the world, holds the key to a 1-0 series lead.

Key to an India win

For India, as mentioned in my 5 predictions for the series, my concern is their lack of preparation leading into the Tests. When you are about to embark on a Test series against a quality attack in foreign conditions, bashing Sri Lanka in limited overs cricket at home isn’t really going to help you prepare well. Poor scheduling might really hurt them in this Test.
However, India possess the talent to prove me wrong. Virat Kohli, easily one of the best players in the world, will be very motivated to lead by example, starting with his batting. He has done well in South Africa before, and has all the ability to have another good series. Can he transfer his Sri Lanka form to South Africa? Another key player for me is Cheteshwar Pujara, who is my pick for India’s leading run-scorer, thanks to patience and a tight technique that is important in South Africa. Ajinkya Rahane, who was poor against Sri Lanka, and Murali Vijay, will also be very important to India’s chances.
Virat Kohli was superb in South Africa in 2013
India have the bowling to cause South Africa’s batting some problems, seeing that South Africa could be a little rusty with a lack of Tests against quality opposition recently. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has added plenty to his game, especially pace, and will be a threat, and so too Mohammed Shami. 
However, the key for India is their batsmen adjusting to the South African conditions as fast as possible. Dealing with the moving ball straight away is not easy, as India found in the first Test of the recent Sri Lanka series, where they were bowled out for just 172 in helpful bowling conditions. It is a massive risk to acclimatise to conditions in a Test match, but that’s the approach India have gone for, and it remains to be seen if they can whether the South African storm. What might work in their favour, though, is the huge drought in Cape Town which may see a drier than usual pitch.

Predicted teams:

Captain Faf Du Plessis, my pick for leading run scorer in the series, is back for South Africa. Dale Steyn will miss the first Test, which reduces the headache the South African selectors will have in regards to the make up of their bowling attack, with all in good form.
South Africa XI: 1. Dean Elgar, 2. Aiden Markram, 3. Hashim Amla, 4. Faf Du Plessis (c), 5. AB De Villiers, 6. Quinton de Kock (wk), 7. Andile Phuhlekwayo, 8. Vernon Philander, 9. Keshav Maharaj, 10. Kagiso Rabada, 11. Morne Morkel.
A huge test, but huge opportunity awaits India. Their number 1 ranking will be put to the test in 2018 with series in South Africa, England and Australia, and the key question here is how well they can adjust to South African conditions and what impact their bowlers can have. Can their seam bowlers enable Ravichandran Ashwin to be more attacking and threatening in foreign conditions? Also, KL Rahul has to play instead of Shikhar Dhawan as Dhawan’s technique can get him in trouble in foreign conditions.
India XI: 1. KL Rahul, 2. Murali Vijay, 3. Cheteshwar Pujara, 4. Virat Kohli (c), 5. Ajinkya Rahane, 6. Rohit Sharma, 7. Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8. Ravichandran Ashwin, 9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10. Mohammed Shami, 11. Ishant Sharma

Stats & Facts:

  • Head-to-head in South Africa: South Africa: 8 wins, India: 2 wins, 7 draws.
  • South Africa have never lost a Test series against India at home.
  • India have not lost a Test series since the 2-0 loss in Australia in 2014/15. They are currently on a run of nine consecutive Test series wins.
  • Outside Asia, Cheteshwar Pujara averages just 29.40 in 10 Tests (excluding West Indies). However, he has done well in South Africa (avg. 44.42 in 4 Tests) and has the class to do well in this series.
  • On India’s last tour of South Africa in 2013, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane topped the run scoring charts in the two Test series.

Prediction:

The predicted dryness of the Cape Town may help India, but it is really difficult seeing them kick off the series with a win, especially considering how little preparation they have had.
South Africa to take a 1-0 lead into the second Test.
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Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. He is also a keen fantasy sports player. Charbel has also had the privilege of interviewing cricketers on the CricBlog TV YouTube channel, including James Neesham, Rassie van der Dussen, Andrew Tye, Shreyas Gopal, Jaydev Unadkat and Saurabh Netravalkar: https://www.youtube.com/@cricblogtv For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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