SA injury crisis makes India favourites

Match details

SuperSport Park, Centurion
February 4, Sunday; 10:00 local, 13:30 IST
Live on Sony Ten 1 HD, Ten 1 (English), and on Sony Ten 3 HD, Ten 3 (Hindi)

The main picture

If the loss of AB de Villiers (a right index finger injury) wasn’t enough, another of South Africa’s premier batsmen and their captain, Faf du Plessis, has also suffered a finger injury which has ruled him out of the five ODIs and three T20Is remaining on this tour. After a hard-fought, absorbing three-Test series, the anticipation has been for a competitive and an equally good ODI series. But, with the hosts significantly short of being full strength, India may well run away with this series now; if they don’t, they will only have themselves to blame.

Aiden Markram will lead the Proteas in the absence of the two stalwarts. On the batting front, South Africa need runs from Amla more than anyone: of the South African batsmen, only Amla and du Plessis are capable of anchoring the innings, allowing other batsmen to be more adventurous.

In the first ODI, the wrist-spin of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav was South Africa’s undoing, as they lost five for 79 (in 20 overs) to this duo. Barely any of their batsmen picked the variations of Kuldeep, in particular, and playing him off the pitch was always going to be impossible. The South African batsmen have two options: be conservative against the Indian spinners (you still need to pick the variations from their hands) and go after the pacers, who they are more comfortable against, or be proactive against the Indian spinners and put them off their lines by employing the sweep or coming down the pitch to the right balls. (You cannot play 20 overs from the crease when you have little clue what is coming out of the hands.)

On the bowling front, the Proteas might have to bring in another specialist pacer for one of the all-rounders, though doing so may weaken the batting further. Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo, who are bowling all-rounders, conceded 94 runs in 15 overs and not until the match had gone did Phehlukwayo remove Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli. Lungi Ngidi is an option for the home team, should they choose to bolster their bowling.

The batting failure of Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya’s bowling were the only downsides of the Durban ODI for India, who had their bowlers restrict the home team to a less-than-competitive score and skipper lead from the front with the bat in harness with Ajinkya Rahane. Batting under lights has traditionally been difficult at the Kingsmead. But the pitch for the first ODI was docile and one on which the South African bowlers were ineffective. India will take confidence from that team performance into the second ODI at SuperSport Park. The absence of du Plessis and de Villiers widens the gap between them and the hosts.

The unusually slow nature of the SuperSport Park pitch for the second Test was not to the host’s liking. For Sunday’s ODI, South Africa will want a pitch with more pace and bounce, to aid their fast bowlers. The last time a day ODI match was played in Centurion was way back in 2013. Four of the last five ODI day matches at this venue have been won by the team batting second and 251 has been the highest target successfully achieved at this venue by a team batting second, since 2009. India and South Africa share a 2-2 head to head record in ODIs at this venue, with one match failing to produce a result. The weather forecast says showers and thunderstorm in the afternoon, with the daytime temperature being 28 degree Celsius.

Recent form

SA: LWWWW (last five completed ODIs, from left to right)

2nd ODI: India vs South Africa playing XI

du Plessis’ injury means the recalled Farhaan Behardien might get an opportunity in the playing XI straight away despite not being named in the original squad. Khayelihle Zondo may miss out once again because of his lack of international experience. Ngidi, who made his Test debut against India in Centurion (his home ground), may well make his ODI debut at the same venue unless the pitch is dry and is expected to assist the spinners more, with Tabraiz Shamsi, a left-arm chinaman spinner, an option to be brought into the line-up.

Possible SA playing XI: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Aiden Markram (c), 4 Jean-Paul Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Lungi Ngidi/Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 Imran Tahir

India don’t have a reason to alter their playing XI unless they expect the pitch behave differently to the one in Durban. In which case, they may field an additional pacer, possibly Mohammed Shami.

Possible India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Match prediction

India are obvious favourites given the way they have started this one-day series and South Africa being beset by injuries to two of their key batsmen. It’s a situation that India should make the most of. Remember, this is a six-ODI series and India cannot take their foot off the pedal.

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