South Africa v India
Sunday 18 February 12.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Is it any wonder that international cricketers complain of a bloated schedule? Just one day after the end of the six-match ODI series, these two go again in a T20 series. Any chance of a breather for the protagonists?
South Africa are already struggling to get an XI out. They have already lost Faf Du Plessis, the skipper, and Quinton De Kock, to injury while AB De Villiers has only just returned from a finger break.
The turnaround is such that South Africa haven't actually had time to announce their squad to cricket bible Cricnfo. Instead of assuming it is similar to the one which ended the ODI series with another heavy defeat at Centurion, snippets are available if we look hard enough.
For a start JP Duminy will captain the side with Du Plessis still absent. He has a job on his hands as it appears South Africa are treating this contest as one too far.
There is no Hashim Amla, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi or Imran Tahir. Instead, in come Christiaan Jonker, Reeza Hendricks, Dane Paterson and Junior Dala. There are also spots for Tabraiz Shamsi, Jon-Jon Smuts, and Aaron Phangiso.
De Villiers, David Miller and Farhaan Behardien provide the reliability which punters will be desperate to see. Oh, and no Aiden Markram, either.
India are not resting on their laurels. The big guns are available after securing such an impressive, and historic, 5-1 victory in the ODI series.
Virat Kohli, who needs 44 runs to become only the third batsman to reach 2,000 runs in T20, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma should all play. Each of them notched a ton in the 50-over clashes.
With the ball Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuv Kumar could be paired together to reproduce their expert death bowling. And bad news for South Africa, Yuz Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, the spinners who consistently destroyed their batting, remain.
India have added to their squad, too. Suresh Raina, something of a left-field pick these days, adds experience. And Jaydev Unadkat, the pacer who was the most expensive IPL purchase in the recent auction, also comes in.
The first-innings scores (most recent first with 1/2 denoting game won by side batting first or second) in the last 13 T20 internationals at Johannesburg read: 113-2/204-2/171-2/231-1/153-1/219-1/147-2/202-1/166-1/118-1/131-2/129-2/157-1. That is an average of 165. It would be fair to say it's a corker of a batting wicket and we should expect 170 to be breached with four scores of that total or more in the last six. South Africa's 113 against Sri Lanka last year was surely an anomaly.
South Africa are 2.265/4 with India 1.728/11. Ordinarily we like to side with the outsider in T20 but this is tricky.
South Africa were hopelessly outclassed in the ODI series and India have their tails up. Indeed, they have won their last four in T20.
The home team's form in this format is not bad. They have five wins from nine this year. But they are not as dangerous when they rest key players. They were beaten 2-1 at home by Sri Lanka at the start of last year with a similar experimental line-up. There was no Du Plessis, Amla, De Kock, Rabada or Morne Morkel then, either.
It is perfectly possible that on a good batting wicket South Africa could get first go, whack on 180 and the odds will flip flop. Certainly AB, Miller and Behardien are capable of that.
India probably won't worry. They are great chasers. And there is a toss bias in day matches here, too. Eight of 11 have been won by the chaser.
Top South Africa bat
De Villiers has 236 runs in ten innings on this ground. He goes off at 9/4 jolly with Betfair Sportsbook. Smuts and Hendricks, who should both open, are 7/2 and 4/1 respectively. We like the look of Behardien at 10/1. He is a powerful striker and can score late, fast runs. Miller, who has 120 runs in five at Jo'burg, is 5/1.
Top India bat
Kohli, rightly, is all the rage after another century in the ODI. He is 21/10 with Sportsbook. Rohit is 7/2 and Dhawan 4/1.