AB de Villiers ruled out of first three ODIs against India as South Africa look to defend No1 spot

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AB de Villiers has a finger injury.

South Africa and India will vie for the world number one ranking again when they meet in a six-match one-day international series, starting at Kingsmead on Thursday.

The one-day games start just five days after India retained their top ranking in Tests, although second-placed South Africa closed the points gap by winning the series 2-1.

South Africa are on top of the International Cricket Council one-day rankings – one point ahead of India. With points adjusted after each game, the number one spot could change hands match to match.

However, the hosts will have to manage without AB de Villiers in the first three games. The star batsman is nursing a finger injury he picked up during the third Test. De Villiers needs two weeks to make a full recovery and is expected to be fit for the fourth ODI at the Wanderers.

South African coach Ottis Gibson’s main focus, however, is the long-term goal of winning the 2019 World Cup in England. South Africa picked a squad of 15 for the first three games and Gibson said there was a possibility other players could be considered for the last three.

“We’re the number one team at the moment but that doesn’t mean a lot leading up to a World Cup,” said Gibson.

“Winning isn’t the be-all and end-all at this stage. There is a fine line and we will try and ensure that whatever team we pick has an equal chance of winning but we have a goal and a vision leading up to the World Cup and we want to expose as many players as possible.”

Unlike the Tests, the one-day internationals could be dominated by batsmen, with six of the world’s top ten one-day batsmen in action on pitches which, unlike the Tests, should favour aggressive stroke play.

Indian captain Virat Kohli heads the ICC batting list, closely followed by his South African friend and IPL teammate de Villiers.

India opener Rohit Sharma and South Africans Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla are also in the top 10, while MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan are at 13 and 14 on the list.

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Wanderers pitch for final Test between South Africa and India rated 'poor' by the ICC

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The Wanderers pitch had come under severe criticism.

The Wanderers pitch in Johannesburg for the recently concluded final Test between South Africa and India has been rated as ‘poor’ by ICC match-referee Andy Pycroft. The rating means three demerit points for the Wanderers venue that shall remain active for a period of five years.

If the venue collects two more demerit points for a poor pitch in this period, it will be barred from hosting any international matches for one year by the ICC. ‘Poor’ is the second lowest rating a wicket can receive, right above an ‘unfit’ rating.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) reserve the right to appeal against ICC’s decision within the next two weeks and should they decide to do so, then it will be heard by the general manager and head of the cricket committee of the world governing body.

Virat Kohli’s Indian team had secured a famous 63-run win in the final Test to salvage some pride after tasting defeats in the first two matches.

However, the pitch at the Wanderers came under fire from various quarters for being heavily skewed in the favour of the pacers. Batsmen from both sides took serious hits to their body at various points in the match as uneven bounce created all sorts of problems.

Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet in the second innings.

Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet in the second innings.

Things got worse towards the end of the third day’s play when South African opener Dean Elgar was struck on the helmet off a short ball from Jasprit Bumrah. As the batsman received medical attention, the umpires took the players off the field while the captains were called into the match-referee’s room for a discussion.

After much deliberation, play was allowed to resume on the fourth day. India then bowled out the hosts to complete a famous win.

ICC’s PITCH GUIDELINES

A poor pitch is one that does not allow an even contest between bat and ball, either by favouring the batters too much and not giving the bowlers (seam and spin) sufficient opportunities to take wickets, or by favouring the bowlers too much (seam or spin), and not giving batsmen the chance to make runs. If any of the following criteria apply, a pitch may be rated “poor”:

  • The pitch offers excessive seam movement at any stage of the match.
  • The pitch displays excessive unevenness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match.
  • The pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match.
  • The pitch displays little or no seam movement or turn at any stage in the match together with no significant bounce or carry, thereby depriving the bowlers of a fair contest between bat and ball.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pitch was rated as ‘poor’ by the ICC recently during the fourth Ashes Test between Australia and England. The match had ended in a tame draw as batsmen made merry on a docile pitch with no assistance at all for the bowlers.

In the series between India and South Africa in 2015, the Nagpur pitch had been deemed poor after the Test finished within three days on a raging turner.

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'We are the number one team in the world and played like it,' says Virat Kohli after Wanderers win

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Kohli described India's win at the Wanderers as one of the country's sweetest.

Captain Virat Kohli claims his side played like the best team in the world following Saturday’s 63-run win over South Africa in the third and final Test at the Wanderers.

“This is one of our sweetest wins,” he said. “This day will be remembered for a long time for us as a team.”

Kohli said India’s performance on a pitch designed to help South Africa’s fast bowlers showed they could win in any conditions.

“We already had the belief but now we have the result to back that as well.”

He said belief in their own ability was crucial.

“If we think about winning Test matches, yes, we will lose some but we will end up winning a lot as well.”

Kohli added Saturday’s win, achieved on the fourth afternoon after South Africa lost their last nine wickets for 53 runs, ranked as one of the finest he had been involved in as a player.

He compared it to a win under Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy against England at Lord’s in 2014.

“Lord’s was very special because we were playing on a similar sort of pitch,” he said.

Asked whether he was concerned that South Africa were taking control during a second wicket stand of 119 between Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla, which took the hosts to within 117 runs of their victory target of 241, Kohli said: “I don’t think like people on the outside,” adding that he knew that if one wicket fell it could lead to a collapse on a difficult pitch.

The win entrenched India as the world’s number one Test team. If South Africa had completed a 3-0 series sweep they would have drawn level on points with Kohli’s men.

“South Africa played better than us in the first two games so they deserved to win (the series) but we deserved to win this game. But at many moments in the first two games we put them under pressure,” added Kohli.

“We are the number one team in the world and we certainly played like that today.”

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis admitted that India had been the better team at the Wanderers but hailed the series win.

“It’s fantastic to win the series against a really good team. Credit to India for playing some really good cricket in all three Tests.”

Du Plessis praised the effort of Elgar, who was struck on the helmet on Friday in an incident which led to the umpires and match referee deciding to call off play, leading to concerns that the match could become only the third Test ever to be abandoned.

Although conditions were difficult on Saturday there was none of the excessive bounce from a good length that there had been on Friday.

Elgar battled for almost six hours, facing 240 balls, to make 86 not out.

He became the first South African to carry his bat twice through a Test innings.

“He’s our little bulldog,” said Du Plessis.

Elgar said it was one of his toughest innings.

“Personally it’s an achievement but it’s bittersweet because we want to win Test matches.”

Du Plessis said he was disappointed about the quality of the pitch and said there needed to be discussions between team management and groundsmen about preparing pitches of a good standard.

“We never asked for anything excessive,” he said. “Once again we are not getting it right.”

Elgar and Amla battled until shortly before tea but then Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah sparked a dramatic collapse.

The hosts were looking comfortable as Elgar and Amla compiled a partnership of 119, although it took four hours and 50.4 overs of hard work. It was only the third century partnership of the series.

Sharma and Bumrah claimed two wickets each to start the slide before Mohammed Shami ripped through the lower order, taking five for 28.

Amla fell with the total on 124 when he clipped Sharma firmly towards midwicket and Hardik Pandya dived to his right to hold a good catch.

Amla had faced 140 balls in making his second half-century of the match.

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