Virat Kohli remains the chase master as India thrash South Africa in first ODI

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Kohli anchored yet another masterful run-chase.

India romped to a comprehensive six-wicket victory over South Africa in the first ODI at Durban to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

The South Africans elected to bat first after winning the toss but were restricted to 269-8 in their 50 overs after some solid work by India’s spinners.

In reply, the visitors managed to chase down the target with ease with more than four overs to spare.

We look at the good and the bad of a high-scoring ODI at Durban.

THE GOOD

INDIA’S WRIST SPIN TWINS THROTTLE PROTEAS

Despite losing Hashim Amla early, South Africa had got off to a flyer with the combined efforts of Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis.

India then pulled back brilliantly as they unleashed their two wrist-spinners in the form of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.

Chahal accounted for de Kock and Aiden Markram in a tight spell while young Kuldeep snared the wickets of JP Duminy, David Miller and Chris Morris to rock South Africa’s middle order.

After racing away to 84-1, the hosts found themselves reeling at 134-5 by the 28th over as the wrist spinners worked their magic. In the 20 overs bowled between them, only 79 runs were scored for the loss of five wickets.

Chahal and Kuldeep rocked South Africa's middle-order.

Chahal and Kuldeep rocked South Africa’s middle-order.

VIRAT KOHLI REMAINS THE CHASE MASTER

The Indian skipper saw his side lose both openers within the first 12 overs in a tricky run-chase but showed no signs of any nervousness on his part to steer his side with another chasing masterclass.

Kohli brought up his 33rd ODI ton and his 20th while chasing after a completely dominant display with the bat. Rarely was the 29-year-old threatened as he dealt with both pacers and spinners with equal aplomb.

He was given able company by Ajinkya Rahane as the two put on a 191-run stand to give India a comprehensive victory.

There is simply no one better than Kohli in a run-chase with the batting maestro now averaging a ton every six games while chasing.

Kohli notched up his 33rd ODI ton.

Kohli notched up his 33rd ODI ton.

THE BAD

AIDEN MARKRAM FAILS TO TAKE HIS CHANCE

Injury to AB De Villiers meant young Aiden Markram was given just his second ODI cap.

The 23-year-old has impressed in his fledgling career so far but things did not go smoothly for him at Durban.

Coming into bat at De Villier’s position at number four, Markram was slow to get off the mark as India’s wrist-spinners tightened their grip.

After nudging his way to nine runs in 20 deliveries, the scoreboard pressure told on the right-hander as he skipped out to attack Chahal.

Unfortunately for Markram, his well-timed flick on the on-side went straight into the hands of Hardik Pandya, bringing to an end his scratchy innings.

IMRAN TAHIR FAILS TO REPLICATE INDIA’S WRIST-SPIN DUO

What the Indian wrist-spinners showed in the South African innings was that slower bowlers would be difficult to get away on the track. Hence, much was expected from the experienced Imran Tahir when the Proteas came out to bowl.

However, the leg-spinner failed to really trouble India’s batsmen. Faf du Plessis would have been looking to Tahir to provide him with the crucial breakthroughs but none were forthcoming.

In the end, Tahir finished wicketless in his 10 overs and although he was not very expensive, he failed to provide South Africa with any penetration.

Tahir was unable to cause any trouble to India's batsmen.

Tahir was unable to cause any trouble to India’s batsmen.

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Jake Ball added to England squad for Tri-Series against Australia and New Zealand

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Jake Ball might get another chance to shine.

Jake Ball has been added to England‘s IT20 squad as cover for the upcoming Tri-Series clashes against Australia and New Zealand.

With lingering doubts over Liam Plunkett’s hamstring injury, the Nottinghamshire bowler is in contention to feature for the Three Lions.

Ball, who will travel with the squad for the Australia leg of the tour initially, has endured a tough time Down Under and only featured twice so far on the tour.

The 26-year-old was dropped after taking just one wicket in the first Ashes Test defeat at Brisbane and also went wicketless during the tourists’ ODI victory in Perth on January 28.

The seamer has yet to make his debut for England’s T20 side but has a decent record in the format at domestic level for Notts, having claimed 61 wickets from 52 matches at an average of 24.26.

Ball could play in England’s warm-up match against a Prime Minister’s XI on Friday with Plunkett likely to miss that clash and Chris Jordan also sidelined with a hamstring problem he picked up in the third ODI against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Batsman Alex Hales will also sit out the tune-up due to a hand injury.

England face Australia in the first of their T20I double-header at the Blundstone Arena in Hobart on Wednesday (February 7) before taking on the Baggy Green again at Melbourne three days later.

New Zealand and England will then tussle in two matches at Wellington (February 13) and Hamilton (February 18) before the top two teams contest the Tri-Series final at Eden Park in Auckland (February 21).

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South Africa ODI series a key building block in India's 2019 ICC World Cup preparation

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Time has flown by and it’s hard to believe the 2019 ICC World Cup is only 15 months away.

For India, the second-ranked ODI side in the world behind South Africa (by only just one point in the ICC rankings), this six-match 50-over series against the Proteas, starting on Thursday at Kingsmead, is a crucial building block to the tournament which takes place in England next year.

The tourists have a real chance of usurping their opponents in the standings come the end of the clashes and continuing the momentum from their 63-run Test win at the Wanderers Stadium – a result which salvaged plenty of pride despite the 2-1 series loss.

The Men in Blue have shown signs they have gradually adapted to testing seaming, pacey and bouncing South African wickets. The conditions in the one-dayers will also be similar to what they will face at the World Cup next year, and if you also factor in the one-day matches India will play when they tour England later this summer, then their preparation is as good as it gets.

It should help the country’s selectors get an early feel of how they see the ODI looking next year, who has thrived in conditions away from India and what work still needs to be done. That said, it is worth reminding though that India did reach the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final, held in England – proof that there is plenty to work with.

Despite winning their past eight ODI series, India have never won a bilateral 50-over series in South Africa and will be keen to extract revenge from a 3-2 one-day lost to South Africa on home soil back in the 2015-16 season.

But, with a firing Virat Kohli in their ranks, anything is possible. The skipper has been in irresistible form in the format for a long while now and is the best in the world.

If he fires, as he did throughout 2017 when he notched 1,460 runs at an average of 76.84 from 26 ODI matches, then India will be in the ascendancy.

Rohit Sharma, despite a poor Test series, is also a man who could also be the difference-maker for India given the hosts are without the injured AB de Villiers for the first three matches.

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