Ed Hawkins previews the Boxing Day clash from Centurion and says India could be caught cold with no warm-up time
"South Africa are no great shakes and India are strong. That is a long-term view, however. We're expecting the gulf to be reduced by that lack of game time for the visitors"
South Africa v India
Sunday 26 December 08.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Saffers turn to pace
South Africa have revealed their hand early. They intend to hit India with pace, and lots of it. There are no fewer than seven pace options in the squad.
Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada are likely to be paired up for game one and they are joined by Duanne Olivier, who makes a welcome return to the international game. They also have Marco Jansen, Beuran Hendricks, Glenton Stuurman and Sisanda Magal. Anrich Nortje is injured.
Just as well because the batting looks weak. The tail is long with all-rounder Wian Mulder at No 7. Much depends on skipper Dean Elgar and middle-order rock Rassie van Der Dussen.
Probable XI: Elgar, Markram, Petersen, Van Der Dussen, Bavuma, De Kock, Mulder, Ma-haraj, Olivier, Ngidi, Rabada
India miss Jadeja
Virat Kohli gets an opportunity to reassert his power after losing the 50-over gig to Rohit Sharma. It won't harm his leadership that Rohit is missing through injury.
Kohli's pre-toss task is to work out whether he wants five bowlers or four. The conundrum has been caused by Ravi Jadeja's unavailability. Ravi Ashwin could well be asked to bat at No 8.
With KL Rahul taking the vice-captaincy from Ajinkya Rahane it is fair to reckon India go with Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari, who can bowl a bit, in the engine room.
Mohammed Siraj and Ishant Sharma are competing for the final pacer's slot. Siraj is the man in possession having been tricky and slippy in the win over New Zealand at the start of the month.
Possible XI: KL Rahul, Agarwal, Pujara, Kohli, Iyer, Vihari, Pant, Ashwin, Shami, Bumrah, Siraj
The last ten first-innings scores at Centurion read: 396-284-181-335-481-475-552-397-409-180. As you can see it is one for the batters and 350 may not be enough. The 396 was by Sri Lanka last year and they were crushed by an innings after South Africa replied with 621.
Before we start piling into innings runs, however, we should be wary. India come into this series undercooked without a warm-up game. They could well be taken by surprise by seam, swing and pace in unfamiliar surrounds. And that 621 by South Africa? It was the only time they passed 350 in their last 12.
Gamble on hosts
South Africa are 3.6013/5 with India 2.546/4 and the draw 2.942/1. It's a very decent betting heat.
But we'll take a gamble on the biggest price of the lot. South Africa are no great shakes and India are strong. That is a long-term view, however. We're expecting the gulf to be reduced by that lack of game time for the visitors.
India were superb against England in the summer but their preparation was first-class. This time they're straight off a plane with only nets to do their work. They have often been slow starters in away Tests and will improve for the run.
Keep an eye on that draw price, too. We'd love the opportunity to lay the stalemate in the 2.407/5 region. With thunderstorms around we may even get shorter than that.
The middle order is where the runs are scored in South Africa once the shine has gone off the ball. So for a kick-off we'll swerve India's Virat Kohli at 12/5 for top India bat in the first dig with Sportsbook.
The price that stands out is the durable Vihari at a tasty 10s. He's organised and could be well-suited to digging deep first up. Rishabh Pant is 6/1 and Ashwin 25s.
Kohli is 6/5 for a fifty and 3/1 for a ton. But be aware he is averaging just 26 in the last two years.
For South Africa, Rassie van Der Dussen is well-placed for a breakthrough year. He could well launch himself into the top echelon of batters this year. He's 9/2 for honours and 8/1 for a maiden ton in the first innings. Check all Sportsbook prices here.
Boxing Day best bets on Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. Includes Hawk-Eye column p-l
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