India v South Africa
Thursday 12 March 08:00
Rohit still missing
India were beaten three-zip in New Zealand as they struggled to adapt to alien conditions and a depleted squad. But whether they will fancy conditions in Dharamsala remains to be seen.
They are at least boosted by the return of Shikhar Dhawan, pacer Bhuv Kumar and Hardik Pandya, the explosive all-rounder. There is still no Rohit Sharma, though, the best batsman in the world.
That means Mayank Agarwal, Shardul Thakar and Manish Pandey miss out. That's tough on Pandey who did not disgrace himself in New Zealand. It gives India six bowling options (two spin, four pace) which makes sense for flatter wickets. On a bowler-friendly surface they might be nervous about Kumar at No 8.
Possible XI Dhawan, Shaw, Kohli, Iyer, Rahul, H Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, B Kumar, Saini, Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
South Africa resurgent
South Africa were terrific in beating Australia 3-0 - a stunning betting upset. They did it without Kagiso Rabada, Faf Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen.
Only Rabada does not return but with the bat South Africa suddenly have an embarrassment of riches. One from Temba Bavuma, Du Plessis and van der Dussen are likely to miss out presuming Jannie Malan and Heinrich Klaasen, centurions both against the Aussies, are undroppable.
With the ball, they will make a call on spinner George Linde or Beauran Hendricks. Lungi Ngidi, fit and firing, is in superb form and should relish the opportunity to get among the Indian batsmen.
Probable XI De Kock, Malan, Du Plessis, van der Dussen, Klaasen, Miller, Phehlukwayo, Maharaj, Hendricks, Nortje, Ngidi
Pitch could assist pacers
There have only been four ODI played at Dharmsala. It's not a study period long enough to get excited about anything but there are hints that it is more friendly for bowlers than batters. The four first-innings scores (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second) read: 226/2-330/1-190/2-112/2.
Seamers and swingers have been to the fore at the ground with 68% of wickets to pacers. Countrywide in the last two years that figure is 53%.
The weather forecast will please that type of bowler too. Persistent rain overnight should have added juice to the pitch. Rain could interrupt the first innings but the rest of the day is clear.
South Africa value
India are 1.434/9 to take a 1-0 lead. It is a poor price considering conditions could mirror those that saw them struggle so badly in New Zealand. South Africa look chunky at 3.259/4.
This could be the best opportunity to bet South Africa in the series. On flatter surfaces, or those that take turn, they could be found wanting.
With zip and life in the pitch the likes of Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo and Anrich Nortje should provide a stern test for India. At the very least we expect them to trade at skinnier odds. We would prefer them to bowl first, though, to make use of the early moisture. If so a trade into close to even money is a strategy.
Cricket...Only Bettor: Ed Hawkins and Sam Colllins discuss the action from Dharamsala
De Kock and Ngidi underrated
Virat Kohli has not top scored for India in 14 international innings. He is well overdue. At pre-toss odds of 5/2 with Sportsbook for honours he is not a wrong price, however. That might change if India were to chase. As discussed in Cricket...Only Bettor above, he is more dangerous in the second innings.
Dhawan is value at 13/5 but only if India bat first. He has six wins from his last 16. Still, giving him a swerve because the pitch probably doesn't suit makes sense. Dhawan has 35 runs in two innings, Kohli 212 in three including a century.
For South Africa, Quinton de Kock is overdue after a poor Australia series. He averages 60.3 against India. Sportsbook go 13/5. Ngidi is hugely underrated at 3/1 for top South Africa bowler.