Ed Hawkins previews a fascinating contest between the top two in the world and says the flip could split them at Kingsmead on Thursday...
"We don’t believe there is much to choose between these two teams. The ICC would agree. South Africa head the rankings from India by a single point"
South Africa v India
Thursday 1 February 11.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
South Africa have been dealt a blow with the loss of AB De Villiers to a finger injury. He has been ruled out of the first three matches after receiving a blow in the controversial Wanderers Test.
Khaya Zondo, the 27-year-old batsman, is expected to play in his place. He has "potential" according to the selectors. A List A average domestically of 32 suggests India will not be too worried.
Will South Africa miss AB? Well, they are used to him missing games these days across all formats. In ODI they win without him 70% of the time. He is rated as the second-best batsman in the world, though, behind Virat Kohli.
The other big guns are available. Quinton De Kock, Faf Du Plessis and Hashim Amla are more than capable of run-getting in his absence. Power lower down comes in the form of David Miller and Chris Morris.
With the ball Imran Tahir is rated by the ICC as the No 1 bowler in the world. Kagiso Rabada is not far behind in sixth.
India will be far more comfortable taking on the hosts in this format instead of the Tests. Granted, they won the last five-dayer but otherwise they were struggling. We could see a turnaround in line with Australia and England's Ashes and ODI series contests.
Kohli will be expected to set the tone. Rohit Sharma, ineffective in the Tests, is extremely dangerous and is rated as No 3 in the world. Shikhar Dhawan is not too shabby, either.
They have plenty of bases covered with the ball, too. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuv Kumar an extremely effective death-bowling unit. Spinners Axar Patel and Yuz Chahal have been so impressive India have dispensed with old faithful - Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja.
Their middle-order could be an issue, though. One from Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey and Ajinkya Rahane will have to put their hand up here.
The last 12 first-innings scores at Durban's Kingsmead read (1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second): 371-2/307-1/283-1/279-1/280-1/234-2/222-2/289-1/286-1/263-2/248-2/351-1. Those lines are pretty healthy.
There is a interesting trend, however. If the team batting first busts 279 or more, the game is all but won. Under lights there is a toss bias. Seven from the last 12 have been won by the team batting first.
We don't believe there is much to choose between these two teams. The ICC would agree. South Africa head the rankings from India by a single point. The market disagrees, as you would expect. South Africa are [1.78] and India [2.26].
It is difficult to reckon that one or the other is value. South Africa, at home, might be deserving of shorter status. But then India's foibles on the road in Tests aren't relevant here. They have won 10 of their last 11 away.
The edge then, is surely decided by the Kingsmead lights. Whoever wins the toss will bat first assured in the knowledge that 280 is defendable. India's swingers will be a threat if the toss goes their way, make no mistake.
The weather isn't great, either, with rain forecast. It all adds to the feeling that this is a bit of a shootout.
Top South Africa runscorer
De Kock relished the India bowling the last time they visited - leading his side to a 2-0 win in 2013. He amassed 342 runs in the series. In Durban he has a strong record - 193 runs in three innings. Miller also likes the ground, averaging (in old money) 85. De Kock is 7/2 with Betfair Sportsbook and Miller 9/2.
Top India runscorer
Kohli, Dhawan, Rohit, Rahane and Dhoni survive from the batters on that tour. Only thr later passed muster with 84 runs in two innings. The rest were awful. If it does go round corners and India are batting second, looking lower down the order could pay off. That's what happened last time when India played in Durban. Chasing 281 they were blown away with 146. Suresh Raina top scored at No 5 but Jadeja went close at No 7. Dhoni and Pandya might appeal at 10/1 and 14/1 respectively.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back side batting first (2pts)