Virat Kohli is a dangerous batsman. Every team knows that. But as it turns out, the edge of his bat can be equally destructive.
It was his edge towards slip in the first innings of the third Test in Johannesburg that resulted in AB de Villiers sustaining a finger injury that ruled the star batsman out of the first three games of the six-match ODI series.
In the first ODI at Kingsmead, it was the turn of South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis to bear the brunt of Kohli’s edge. Fielding at slip, again, Faf failed to latch on to a Kohli edge off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada. The India captain went on to score a match-winning century as India tasted success in an ODI in South Africa for the first time in seven years.
However, Faf fractured his finger and now has been ruled out of the rest of the ODI and subsequent T20 series. Not only is Faf the leader of the pack but also the lynchpin of their batting line-up. His absence combined with the injury to De Villiers means India enter Sunday’s second ODI in Centurion with even more confidence knowing the hosts are down on personnel and confidence.
Inexperienced 23-year old batsman Aiden Markram, who has nonetheless started his international career well, has been named South Africa’s captain for the remaining five ODIs.
One last appearance for Dhoni at Durban. In all probability... His goodbyes begin on this long overseas cycle wherever he plays now. #SAvIND— Chetan Narula (@chetannarula) February 1, 2018
DHONI ON THE VERGE OF HISTORY
India wicket-keeper MS Dhoni got an opportunity to bat right towards the end of the opening game against South Africa, hitting a boundary in India’s successful chase at Durban. That took his tally to 9,902 runs from 313 ODI matches.
The 36-year-old is 98 runs away from becoming only the second gloveman in the history of ODI cricket to score 10,000 runs. What is even more remarkable about Dhoni’s impending record is that he will most likely enter the 10,000-run club as the only batsman to average more than 50.
No other batsman in the history of ODIs with more than 10,000 runs has averaged more than 45, making Dhoni’s returns even more impressive. Also, his strike-rate (more than 88) will be the second best in the 10k club behind Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya (91).
Congratulations India on a very comprehensive victory. While Kohli and Rahane were outstanding, Chahal and Kuldeep ‘s spell was a big difference as well. #INDvSA— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) February 1, 2018
SPINNERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The wicket in the first ODI at Durban was surprisingly dry and gave India spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal considerable help as they took five wickets for 79 runs from 20 overs. The pitch in Centurion might turn out be equally, if not more, helpful.
The Centurion track was the driest among all surfaces during the three-match Test series and attracted a lot of criticism from the South African camp. If the wicket is even remotely dry on Sunday, South Africa’s batsmen should expect another harrowing 20 overs of wrist spin.
India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara will join Yorkshire for a second stint this season and share overseas duties with New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.
Having been overlooked in the Indian Premier League auction over the weekend, the 30-year-old Pujara will link up with the White Rose ahead of their pre-season friendly against Leeds Bradford MCCU on April 7.
Yorkshire now have three of the world’s top six Test batsmen in their line-up this summer. Apart from Pujara – ranked sixth in the world – Yorkshire’s team also features England captain Joe Root (third) and Williamson (fourth).
Pujara, who averages 50.51 after 57 Tests and spent part of the 2015 campaign at Yorkshire, will return to India for the historic first Test against Afghanistan from June 14-18.
However, he is expected to return for Yorkshire’s county championship clash against Hampshire on June 20, while the county hope he will rejoin the club for their final two matches after India’s Test tour of England this summer.
Excited to be here, again! https://t.co/g4Cz9ImsHV— cheteshwar pujara (@cheteshwar1) January 30, 2018
India are scheduled to play five Tests in England between August 1 and September 11.
“I’m really excited to be able to have the opportunity to represent Yorkshire once again,” Pujara said.
“It’s always nice to be able to come over here and play some county cricket and I’m just as excited as I was last time to represent the club. I love the passion the people of Yorkshire have for the game and they made me feel very welcome.
“It’s an honour for me to play for the same county as Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar and each time I’ve played county cricket it has improved me as a player. That’s the plan again in 2018. I just want to score as many runs as possible for Yorkshire and soak up as much as I can from the whole experience.”
Pujara’s first spell in county cricket was with Derbyshire in 2014, while he played for Nottinghamshire last season, and he has amassed three centuries and as many fifties in that time.
Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon said: “It goes without saying that Cheteshwar is a highly-driven individual and very skilled batsman.
“Just as he did in 2015, Pujara will relish the challenge of performing in English conditions. He’s very difficult to dislodge and will hopefully dominate the crease for us during his stay.”
Yorkshire last month announced Williamson would be available for 11 NatWest T20 Blast fixtures and four county championship matches from July 13 to September 4.
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.
The CSA medical team is hopeful De Villiers will recover in time for the fourth Pink ODI at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Saturday, February 10th . Selectors have opted not to name a replacement.— Kass Naidoo (@KassNaidoo) January 30, 2018
The first ODI takes place at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Thur, at 13h30 #SAvIND https://t.co/ubTtFZYFlP
“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.