Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
February 18, Sunday; 13:30 local, 18:00 IST
Live on Sony Ten 1 HD, Ten 1 (English), Ten 3 HD, Ten 3 (Hindi)
The main picture
India enter the final leg of their South African safari—the three-match T20 International series—with plenty of confidence and a genuine opportunity to secure another limited-overs series win in the rainbow nation. They will be fielding their first-choice personnel (Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Kuldeep Yadav), each of whom enjoyed a good one-day series, and as has been the case with India over the last 12 months, they have pretty much every base covered even for the shortest format of the sport. Then you have an accomplished Twenty20 player, Suresh Raina, joining the ranks along with the supremely talented Lokesh Rahul, who will look to make amends for his indifferent Test outings in Centurion and Johannesburg.
The same can, however, not be said about South Africa despite the presence of Jean-Paul Duminy, who will once again be the captain having also led against Bangladesh, AB de Villiers and David Miller in the batting department and a couple of quality all-rounders (Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo). For starters, these players have not been in good form, the bowling attack is relatively inexperienced and South Africa’s primary focus is already on the upcoming four-Test series at home against Australia. Which is not to say that the players named in the T20 squad will take this series lightly. But the absence of Hashim Amla, who has been rested ahead of that all-important Test series, and Quinton de Kock due to a left wrist injury is likely to be felt by the Proteas, particularly because of the quality in their opponent.
This T20 series kicks off at the Wanderers, which is a batsmen-friendly, high-scoring venue where you can expect another run fest. And run fests, make no mistake, are very much the norm here. A little more than three years ago, West Indies successfully chased down a seemingly insurmountable target of 232 and a year later, another 200-plus target (205, precisely) was chased down by Australia against South Africa. So, you can expect the captain winning the toss to opt to bowl first and put pressure on the side batting first. The weather forecast is for a shower with thunderstorms in the morning, but the rest of the day is predicted to be clear.
SA: WWLWL (from left to right, last five completed T20Is)
India vs South Africa 1st T20 playing XI
The Proteas are likely to have two debutants tomorrow, with Klaasen potentially persisted with from the one-day side and Junior Dala also being handed his Twenty20 International debut. The batting line-up wears a formidable look even amid question marks over the form of de Villiers, Duminy and Miller.
Possible SA playing XI for first T20: 1 Jean-Paul Duminy (c), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Jon-Jon Smuts, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 David Miller, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Dane Paterson, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Aaron Phangiso/Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 Junior Dala
India’s batting line-up is likely to be pretty much the same from the ODIs and the visitors might include only five specialist batsmen including MS Dhoni. A five-man bowling attack featuring skilful, accomplished T20 bowlers will allow them to tie down the South Africa batsmen.
Possible India playing 11 for the first T20: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Suresh Raina/Lokesh Rahul, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 8 Jasprit Bumrah, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Jaydev Unadkat
India, given their personnel, recent form and state of mind, will start this T20 series as firm favourites. But the nature of this format is such that one good innings from a batsman or one good spell from a bowler can turn the match on its head. And South Africa have more than a handful of impact players who are perfect for this format.