The series got off to a blockbuster start in Delhi
with India posting their highest T20I score against South Africa, who completed their highest successful chase in response.
Given that India are without even more players than they initially planned for after KL Rahul and Kuldeep Yadav were both ruled out
on the eve of the first match, the result may not sting too much and there’s more than enough time to make up for it. India can’t ask for more from their batters, but they may want to consider how best to use Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik in the middle order and when to unleash their IPL bowling finds on a South African line-up that is quietly making a habit of winning from tough situations.
Dating back to last year’s T20 World Cup, South Africa have developed a knack of relying less on luck (or lack thereof) and trusting their ability at the death. Their experienced batters are coming into their own but there are still questions about the make-up of the team that they will want to answer. Their all-round options on this tour are both seam bowlers, which creates more room for specialist spinners. We can expect this combination to change as the series progresses but perhaps not until the direction the contest takes is clear.
South Africa are 1-0 up but were pushed to their limits in the first match. How much further can they go? India will want to see.
(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
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While India’s bowlers were slayed to all parts of the Arun Jaitley stadium on Thursday night, Harshal Patel
initially looked the most likely to wrest back some control. He bowled pinch-hitter Dwaine Pretorius with a pin-point slower-ball yorker in a powerplay over that cost only one run but then was only brought back after the halfway stage. David Miller picked him well and Rassie van der Dussen punished his third over for 22 runs but still praised Harshal’s slower ball, which he called “very tough” to hit. Even after van der Dussen’s blitz, Harshal still managed to beat him with an offcutter that dipped under the bat. Taking pace off may be the best way to challenge a line-up that enjoys the ball coming on to the bat and Harshal will have a big role to play as the series goes on.
It’s difficult to be too critical of South Africa’s batting after the first match but the contributions of Temba Bavuma
could soon come under scrutiny, especially with so many top-order options in the squad. Bavuma has only played 22 T20Is, 14 of them as captain, and his strike rate is the number worth looking at. Overall, it’s 123.13, the third lowest for any South African with more than 500 runs in the format
. Since taking over the leadership, it has dipped to 114.91. Given that he usually has Quinton de Kock at the other end and can play a stabilising role, that may not be much of a concern but should South Africa need more explosive starts, it may become more of a talking point.
We may have to wait a little longer to see Umran Malik or Arshdeep Singh with India likely to go in with an unchanged XI.
India: (possible) 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
, who missed the first match after testing positive for Covid-19, has remained in Delhi and will need quarantine for seven days from June 8, which rules him out of at least the first three games. That didn’t affect South Africa too much and after their success in the first match, they may not want to tinker with their combination. If conditions favour seamers, they may consider benching Keshav Maharaj for one of Lungi Ngidi or Marco Jansen.
South Africa: (possible) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Temba Bavuma, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 David Miller, 5 Tristan Stubbs, 6 Dwaine Pretorius, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Lungi Ngidi/Keshav Maharaj, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi
The Barabati Stadium has only hosted two T20Is before and in one of them
, India were bowled out for their fourth-lowest T20I total – 92 – by South Africa. In the other
, Sri Lanka were dismissed for their joint second-lowest total of 87. While both attacks may be eyeing something similar with significant swing through the air available on the eve of the match, Wayne Parnell said he expects it to be fairly tough for bowlers, despite the green-tinged surface. He also anticipates another “sweaty,” encounter. Temperatures will be cooler than in Delhi, with the mercury rising to 37 degrees Celsius, but the 64% humidity may mean it won’t feel too much different.
David Miller and Kagiso Rabada are the only two South African players from the XI that beat India by six wickets at this ground seven years ago
. Axar Patel and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are the two Indian players from that match.
Rabada is one wicket away from 50 T20I wickets. If he gets there in this series, he will be the second-fastest South African to the milestone, after Imran Tahir, who achieved it in 29 matches
There are two things that India does really well: one is cricket and the other one is hospitality. It’s been really awesome being here.
Wayne Parnell is enjoying his first time in Cuttack
“We discussed after the game what went wrong but it was just the first match of the series. Everyone is coming from the IPL and almost everyone who is in the team had a good IPL. So everyone knows what needs to be done in tomorrow’s match and things we can improve upon. So there wasn’t a big discussion because anyone can have an off day. As a bowling unit, we had an off day but that’s okay. We just want to come back [stronger] in the next match.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar feels India need not worry despite losing the first T20I