Both teams come into the series on the back of impressive results with the Proteas having demolished Australia 3-1 at home while the Sri Lankans fought back valiantly to draw the three-Test series in the West Indies 1-1.
Faf du Plessis‘s men are the No.2 ranked Test outfit in the world and they will look to repeat the trick from their previous two-match Test tour of the Islands back in 2014, where they triumphed 1-0.
All eyes will be on whether Dale Steyn is handed a spot in the playing XI with the veteran pacer returning to the squad for the first time since injuring himself in the first Test against India at the start of the year.
While spin might be the way go in the subcontinent, South Africa coach Ottis Gibson has insisted that his squad will look to play to their strengths by lining up with three quicks. If his words are anything to go by, Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander could make up South Africa’s pace battery with Lungi Ngigi being the unfortunate bowler to miss out.
If Steyn indeed plays, he will be looking to overhaul Shaun Pollock to become the highest Test wicket-taker for South Africa. The 35-year-old is currently two wickets shy of Pollock’s tally of 421 wickets.
Hosts Sri Lanka will be looking to veteran spinner Rangana Herath again to carry their hopes with the ball in the Test series. The 40-year-old has an excellent track record at Galle where he has picked up 94 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 24.78.
Sri Lanka are sweating over the availability of skipper Dinesh Chandimal for the Test. Chandimal, coach Chandika Hathurusinghe and manager Asanka Gurusinha admitted to conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game in the recent tour of the West Indies when they refused to take the field owing to ball-tampering allegations.
"The verdict on the national cricket team’s top management and captain Dinesh Chandimal for bringing the game into disrepute is expected to be delivered tonight (Wednesday) ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Galle on Thursday." https://t.co/uIFmig3hgQ— Island Cricket (@IslandCricket) July 11, 2018
The hearing for the Level 3 offence took place on Wednesday with the verdict expected to be announced soon. If the sanctions to the offence Chandimal has pled guilty are enforced, the Sri Lanka skipper will be forced out of the entire two-match Test series. If Chandimal misses out, pacer Suranga Lakmal could lead the team once again.
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal (c), Akila Dananjaya, Lahiru Kumara.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (c), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn.
Virat Kohli’s men clinched the three-match 20-over contest 2-1 to take the early bragging rights ahead of what will be a long English summer for them with the five-match Test series to follow the ODIs.
With the ODI series promising to be an equally entertaining affair if not more, we look at the key talking points ahead of the Trent Bridge opener.
SHIKHAR DHAWAN’S FORM REMAINS A WORRY FOR INDIA
While India’s top-order batsmen in Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Kohli all fired in the T20 series, the form of Shikhar Dhawan remains a huge concern. Dhawan’s tour of the UK started with a sparkling knock of 74 in the first T20 against Ireland at Dublin.
Since then, it has all gone downhill for the India opener who managed to score a paltry 19 runs in three outings on English soil. With England possessing a batting-unit which bats deep, India will need its top-order to be on their game and as such, Dhawan will be under pressure to deliver the goods.
The left-hander will look to draw from his performance in the ICC Champions Trophy in England last year where he finished as the leading run-scorer, troubling the scorers for 338 in five matches.
TUSSLE FOR NO.1 CROWN
The ODIs will see the top two ranked outfits in the world go head-to-head against each other with Eoin Morgan‘s side looking to defend their status as the best 50-over-side in the world.
Building up to next year’s World Cup in England and Wales, the Three Lions currently have a four-point lead over the second-ranked Indians and a single victory in either of the three ODIs will mean that they will retain that mantle at the end of the series.
Kohli’s men, on the other hand, need to inflict a 3-0 whitewash on the hosts to leapfrog them in the ranking table. That, by all means, will be no easy task given how convincingly England recently swept aside arch rivals Australia by a thumping 5-0 margin in the format.
RUN FEAST ON OFFER AT NOTTINGHAM
The last time Trent Bridge hosted an ODI, England scored a world-record 481-6 against the Aussies as they went on to notch up a gigantic 242-run win. The ground is gaining notoriety for its high-scoring clashes with England’s previous world-record total of 444-3 coming at the same venue against Pakistan in August 2016.
Much of the same could be on offer in batting-friendly and humid Nottingham conditions on Thursday, coupled with the fact both sides possess explosive and experienced rosters with the willow.
Bowlers from both sides could be in for a hard day at the office and it will not be a surprise to see another 400-run plus total up on the board.
Kohli, who usually bats at his customary No.3 position, moved down the order to accommodate the in-form KL Rahul in that spot during the recent three-match T20 series. That move, according to Ganguly, has given India a formidable batting-order.
“If you look at this T20I series, I think they have formed the proper batting line-up. With Rahul at number three, and Virat Kohli batting at number four, I think the problem has been sorted out. And I firmly believe it is the right thing to do in the ODI format as well,” the former India skipper said during the UK launch of his book ‘A Century is Not Enough’.
“I think that’s what Kohli is doing to do as well,” Ganguly added.
After India won the T20 series 2-1, Ganguly feels they will be the favourites for the ODIs as well due to England’s unconvincing bowling attack.
“England are a good side. They are a very good batting unit but bowling is the weaker part of their game. The way India won in Bristol when chasing 200, they will fancy their chances against this English bowling line-up in the ODI series,” Ganguly opined.
Kohli and his men will have their eyes on the No.1 ODI ranking in the three-match series against England with a 3-0 whitewash guaranteeing India top spot.