Pakistan will reportedly take on Ireland and the Netherlands in limited-overs clashes prior to their tour of England in 2020.
The Men in Green are slated to take on England in three Tests and as many T20s in the summer next year with the opening clash scheduled to begin on July 30.
According to a report by Geo TV, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have been able to finalise a total of five limited-overs clashes against the Dutch and Irish in the lead up to the tour of England.
The report states that the Men in Green will take on Netherlands first up in a three-match ODI series before they lock horns with Ireland in two T20 clashes. The five matches are expected to take place in the month of July ahead of the three-match Test series between England and Pakistan.
An official announcement for the same is expected soon by the PCB.
For Netherlands, it will be the first ODI meeting against Pakistan since their 97-run loss to the Men in Green in the 2003 ICC World Cup in South Africa. The two teams have met thrice in the format previously with Pakistan prevailing on every single occasion.
Ireland, meanwhile, have played Pakistan only once previously in the T20 format with the Men in Green emerging victors by 39 runs during the 2009 World T20 clash between the two sides at the Oval in London.
Pakistan are currently involved in an ongoing ODI series against Sri Lanka at Karachi with the third and final match set to take place at the National Stadium on Wednesday. The two teams will then move on to Lahore for the T20I leg of the tour with the three-match series slated to begin on October 5.
The threat of rain looms large over all five days of the opening Test with the latest forecast predicting an almost 80 per cent chance of showers on day one itself.
While the two teams will be wary of the prospect of a rain-curtailed game, they will have their eyes firmly fixated on the big prize, with 120 vital ICC World Test Championship points on offer in the series.
Saha beats Pant to wicketkeeping slot
Young Rishabh Pant might have become the first Indian wicketkeeper to register overseas Test tons in England and Australia last year but it is veteran Wriddhiman Saha who will take the gloves for the hosts in the upcoming three-match series.
The 34-year-old’s last Test appearance came against South Africa at the start of 2018 with subsequent shoulder injuries opening the door for Pant to make his debut in the format.
To drop a wicketkeeper who averages more than 44 with the bat is a bold call by skipper Virat Kohli who has termed Saha as the best pure glovesman in the world.
“Saha’s keeping credentials are there for everyone to see. He’s played well for us whenever he’s got a chance with the bat for us also,” Kohli stated.
“It was unfortunate that he was out for such a long period with an injury, and according to me he’s the best keeper in the world. In these conditions, and with what he’s done for us in the past, he’ll start for us.”
Spotlight firmly on Rohit after poor warm-up outing
Along with dropping the big news of Saha’s return to the playing XI, Kohli more or less confirmed that Rohit Sharma will open the batting for the hosts alongside Mayank Agarwal.
“We are in no hurry with Rohit Sharma as opener. He will be given time and space to find his rhythm and the way he wants to play at the top,” said Kohli in his pre-match address to the media.
The India limited-overs deputy skipper’s Test record screams average so far, especially in overseas conditions where he averages less than 27. While his home record is more than handy, Rohit’s display against the Proteas in the recent practice game has thrown further doubts over his suitability to red-ball cricket.
After being dismissed for a second-ball duck by Vernon Philander, the spotlight will only intensify on Rohit in the coming series with his vulnerabilities against quality swing and seam well known.
In fact, Philander and Kagiso Rabada have already had the beating of him three times apiece in the past in Tests, and the South African new-ball bowlers will most definitely pose a rigorous examination of Rohit’s technique once again.
Visitors looking to break India’s home dominance
South Africa were resoundingly thrashed 3-0 the last time (2015-16) they toured India for a Test series and a lot has changed for the visitors. Stalwarts such as Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn have moved on and it is very much a transitional and relatively inexperienced Proteas Test side that travels.
While they will be boosted by the return of their regular skipper Faf du Plessis, the visitors have their task cut out against the No1 ranked hosts who are targeting a record 11th Test series win on home soil. Still, Du Plessis and his men are not to be taken lightly and they showed plenty of grit and determination in the recently drawn T20 series against India.
One of the key men who could give the hosts plenty of trouble is Philander and the ace seamer wants the senior players in the side to step up in India.
“The spotlight will be on a lot of big players to make a statement,” said Philander.
“Our job is to come here and give the first punch as India is obviously expected to do well. It’s a tough start playing India in India but I don’t think the South Africans would have wanted it any other way.”
India: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Humza, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi.
After sharing the spoils in the preceding T20I series, India and South Africa now turn their attentions to the three-match Test series which gets under way in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam on Wednesday.
The hosts will look to make amends for their defeat at the hands of the Proteas in South Africa last year as they look to extend a formidable home record which has seen them win 10 Test series on the bounce.
The visitors, however, will be no pushovers as their fightback in the recent T20 series showed. As the two teams prepare for their red-ball showdown, we look at the three key battles that could decide the fate of the series.
Kohli v Rabada
With Steve Smith wasting no time in reclaiming his No1 ICC Test ranking with a stupendous Ashes campaign, India skipper Virat Kohli has the chance to make up lost ground in the three matches to come on home soil.
It hasn’t been the most prolific calendar year in the Test format for Kohli after his stellar displays in India’s overseas tour cycle of 2018, with the right-hander mustering just 159 runs in his five innings so far in 2019.
While he will take comfort from home conditions, the India superstar has his task cut out against Kagiso Rabada who looks determined to make up for an average World Cup campaign. Like Kohli, Rabada has seen the limelight snatched away from him in recent times with Jofra Archer and Pat Cummins hogging the headlines with their fast-bowling displays in the Ashes.
Expect these two fierce competitors to leave no stone unturned as they look to send a timely reminder of why they are still the best in the business in their respective departments.
Pujara v Maharaj
Cheteshwar Pujara was at the forefront of India’s historic Test win in Australia last year but the top-order stalwart comes into the series on the back of a nightmarish tour of the West Indies where nothing really went his way.
The right-handed batsman is a completely different beast in home conditions, though, with his average touching nearly 62, and he will fancy his chances to swell his run tally against the visiting Proteas.
Pujara is, without a doubt, India’s best player of spin and he will look to impose himself early on against Keshav Maharaj. The South African left-arm orthodox spinner’s threat is not to be discounted, however, especially bearing in mind his recent red-ball form. Maharaj took the County Championship by storm for Yorkshire in the summer – the spinner claiming 38 wickets in just five games with the help of two separate ten-wicket match hauls.
While all eyes will be on India’s spin duo of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, it is Maharaj who could really steal the show in what will be his maiden Test appearance on the subcontinent. He should really relish the conditions on offer.
Shami v Markram
With India dealt a big blow in the form of Jasprit Bumrah’s injury, the onus will be on Mohammed Shami to step up in the pace department for the hosts. While spin is expected to be India’s primary mode of attack against the visitors, the pacers will have to play their part as well, and it is Shami who looks primed to lead the attack.
Shami was terrific for India in the Test series clean sweep in the Caribbean and the 29-year-old will now look to repeat those exploits at home where he averages a stellar 24.48.
The pacer, though, will need to be on the top of his game against South Africa opener Aiden Markram who is looking in ominous form at the moment. The 24-year-old struck two tons in the warm-up clashes in the lead up to the Test series and is arguably the most in-form South Africa batsman at the moment.
If Markram can dig in for the long haul, he can really boost the visitors’ chances in the series and Shami will be keen to ensure that the Proteas opener does not get his way.