South Africa eye positive start against familiar-looking host

Match details

HPCA Stadium, Dharamsala
September 15, Sunday; 19:00 IST
Live on Star Sports, streaming on Hotstar

The main picture

For the first time since their readmission, South Africa have an unimposing look about them as they prepare for a three-match T20I series followed by a three-match Test series against India.

Any narrative about the current standing of South Africa is likely to be met with a bit of cynicism given their consistently positive results across formats in the last two-and-a-half decades. Players came and went, but with South Africa, you knew they were going to be hard to beat in all conditions and they carried that aura whether they played home or away. That they would enter a transitional phase after the 2019 World Cup was anticipated, but the results in the last two years culminating in the group-stage exit in England were unbecoming of South Africa. The steep decline in results, in addition to having a number of players on their first tour of India, means expectations of South Africa are markedly low.

Under Quinton de Kock’s captaincy, South Africa begin their tour of India in a format which isn’t the home team’s forte, while their own squad comprises a handful of T20 and limited-overs specialists who have been in India for a fortnight playing a five-match ODI series against India ‘A’. Therefore, you expect the likes of Reeza Hendricks, Beuran Hendricks, Anrich Nortje, Junior Dala, to name a few, to be ready for start of the T20 series.

The ‘A’ series in Thiruvananthapuram also gave the quartet aforementioned and Temba Bavuma and Bjorn Fortuin the chance of playing against a number of India’s T20 squad members (Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Khaleel Ahmed), which could work in the visitor’s favour.

India’s squad for the T20 series starting Sunday has a familiar look to it, with Hardik Pandya’s inclusion in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar the only change from the series win against the West Indies last month.

While the home team aren’t short of batting or bowling depth, India’s batting template in T20 cricket has not brought them enough success. They began 2019 with T20 series defeats to New Zealand and Australia, and one of the contributing factors was India’s inability to maximise the powerplay, particularly when chasing stiff targets. It’s an area they must address to become a more consistent team in the format.

The variety in India’s bowling will challenge the South African batsmen, who are used to playing on pitches comparatively quicker and with more bounce. From a tactical viewpoint, the battle between the South African batsmen and the Indian spinners could define the series.

Dharamsala pitch report and weather forecast

The HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala last hosted a T20 match during the 2016 T20 World Cup, with Australia and New Zealand playing a low-scoring, last-ball thriller in which an aggregate of 276 runs were scored in 40 overs. The pitch for that fixture was markedly slower. In contrast, the first-ever T20I to be played here, between India and South Africa on the Proteas’ last tour, was full of runs. India made 199 for five batting first and South Africa chased down the target with two balls to spare. With this being the start of India’s home season and the pitch having not had much of cricket, the pace and bounce might be variable and hence challenging for the batsmen. That said, air-borne balls travel fast because of the altitude and if batsmen get set, they can score pretty quickly.

Sunday’s forecast says air quality will be unhealthy, while showers are expected.

India vs South Africa 1st T20 playing 11

Possible Indian playing XI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya/Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Deepak Chahar, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Khaleel Ahmed

Possible South Africa playing XI: 1 Quinton de Kock (c & wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 David Miller, 5 Temba Bavuma/Jon-Jon Smuts, 6 Andile Phehlukwayo, 7 Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Tabraiz Shamsi, 10 Anrich Nortje/Bjorn Fortuin, 11 Beuran Hendricks

Match prediction

The teams are quite evenly-matched and the result could come down to how the South African batsmen tackle the Indian spinners, while India’s approach during the mandatory powerplay could be decisive too.