The opening Test match of three between South Africa and India gets underway in Cape Town on Friday as the top two ranked sides in the longer format of the game battle in what is one of the more intriguing series of the winter.
This is just a three match series so there will be pressure on both teams here. They will both want to win the game to take control of the series but at the back of their minds they will know they can’t afford to lose if they are going to have any wriggle room for the rest of it.
We’ve already seen South Africa in this summer. They have taken on the inferior opposition of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but this represents a much tougher test for them – or at least it should do. In fairness we found out nothing in their match against Zimbabwe. A bigger farce at this level you will struggle to see but at least it got them back in the groove after the pause for the domestic T20.
The one thing we know about this South Africa side is that they will have a strong bowling attack out and with everyone seemingly fit there may not be a let up in the attack either. They are a little more inexperienced with the bat but at the same time there is some real class acts in that unit so they look a crack outfit.
I will be interested to see how India go in the early stages of this match. I say that because they have not played a warm up match so they are basically coming into the game cold having played a lot of Test cricket in the sub-continent recently. They did try and get some spicy wickets for the Sri Lanka series but spicy Indian tracks and South African decks are different beasts.
If everything is settled and all things are equal you would think the success or otherwise of the Indian side will be through their bowling attack. If their seamers can perform acceptably then they have the batting line up to do the business off the back of that. If they don’t and they need spin to take wickets this could be a long month.
Hashim Amla had picked up a virus in the run up to the match but he is expected to play. Vernon Philander is back for this match while Dale Steyn could also be picked. South Africa are touting playing four seamers.
India look likely to have to make a choice over the balance of their side. If they want the all-rounder and extra bowling option then Hardik Pandya could be their man. If not Rohit Sharma may get the nod.
This will be the 55th time that Test cricket has been held on this famous ground. With Table Mountain in the background the views in the backdrop here are as good as anywhere in the world. South Africa enjoy a winning record here with 23 wins to 20 defeats and 11 draws. India have a pair of draws and a pair of defeats from four matches.
Usually this wicket can be nice to bat on when the sun is out but with an Asian side here you would expect the wicket to be green and assist the seamers throughout. Often the spinners come into play late on here but that may not be the case in this match given that is India’s strength.
Given that India have not offered anything to get a form guide from them on this tour yet it is going to be largely a slow start to the series from a betting point of view for me here. I’ll take just one.
That comes in the form of the player performance of Kagiso Rabada where a 111.5 line could be a little on the low side. He took 10 wickets in the Test match here last year and given the green conditions I expect him to be dangerous again in this match. He could easily snaffle six wickets in the match but he’s a handy lower order batsman who could nick some runs too. All things being equal I expect him to cover this.
WON – Back K.Rabada’s Performance – Over 111.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.73 with Bet365