India and South Africa begin their preparations for a T20 World Cup which is a little over four months away on Thursday when they meet in the first of five T20 internationals between the two over the next week or two.
Covid restrictions have been lifted in India now which means these matches can take place at different venues. This opening match comes from the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi which is going to resemble a sauna with temperatures safely above 40 degrees.
The Indians are on a quite amazing run in this format of the game. They have won their last 12 T20 internationals and will be heading to Australia in October with their eye firmly on winning the T20 World Cup for the first time since 2007. This run has come a little out of the blue because at the last T20 World Cup they were effectively eliminated no sooner had they arrived at the competition. They will be doubly eager to avoid a repeat of that.
For all India are in good form and aiming to build up towards the World Cup, they have made some interesting if not questionable selection decisions for this series and you would have to say from the outside it looks like this series isn’t much of a priority for them. Admittedly they are off to England later in the month but with crowds finally allowed back in Indian cricket grounds you would have expected India to go strong here. It remains to be seen how they perform without some star names.
India might be perceived to not be taking this series seriously but there can be no similar accusations levelled at South Africa. The Proteas were another side who failed to register a competitive at the previous T20 World Cup and in conditions in Australia which should suit them a lot more later in the year, the minimum requirement for them is to be competitive in that tournament. As such they have named their strongest squad for this series.
The one thing which often lets South Africa down in this format is a lack of finishers. David Miller showed at the IPL that he is still more than capable of delivering in that role but there is a shortage of players putting their hand up for that position. Where South Africa make up for that is their seam attack where they have a huge depth of options and you would imagine that is something that is likely to make them very dangerous when they get to Australia.
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India had surprisingly chosen to sit Rohit Sharna, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah out of this series. That led to KL Rahul being names the stand-in captain but he and Kuldeep Yadav have had to pull out with injury. It means Rishabh Pant will lead the Indians in this series. Umran Malik is set to have to wait for a debut as India go with the experienced players in their squad.
South Africa have all of their gun players available with Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje all ready to play. Tristan Stubbs was brilliant in the domestic T20 competition earlier in the year but couldn’t get the ball off the square in the IPL. He is set to get a chance to prove himself in this series but might have to wait his chance.
The run line for this match is up at 321.5 runs for this match and when you consider that the average first innings score at the Feroz Shah Kotla in international T20 cricket is just 156 that feels like a high line. The pitch will surely be dry to begin with given that temperatures are going to be upwards of 40 degrees during the day and while some dew might form later in the match it would be no surprise at all if the ball doesn’t come onto the bat initially and if batting is quite difficult.
Even in the Indian Premier League this ground isn’t one of the higher scoring grounds doing the rounds and when you look down both the sides there isn’t really a weak area of their bowling attack. India are going in with bowlers adept at changing pace and bowling cutters over the out and out pacemen who might come along later in the series, while South Africa have Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje who spent IPL seasons bowling for the Delhi Capitals here and will know how to get the job done. I fancy we’ll start off with a lower scoring game than we usually might so I’ll take under 321.5 runs here.
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