No sooner had Australia departed than South Africa arrived in India, as preparations for the World Cup continue to hot up.
The two teams will play three T20Is and then three ODIs, although the latter series may see completely different personnel, particularly on the Indian side, with the selectors unwilling to risk injury to key players this close to the World Cup itself. South Africa, too, are likely to rotate their team as they look to maintain freshness.
The action gets underway on September 28th in Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram, which is hosting its first international for three years.
No threat to the match
At one stage there were concerns that the match might be in doubt because of a dispute between the owners of the stadium and the local power company over unpaid electric bills. However, this now appears to have been resolved and, in any case, organisers had promised to bring in emergency generators if needed. And that is good news for a part of the company starved of top-level cricket.
India and South Africa have played each other in T2OIs 20 times before, with India winning 11 matches to eight by South Africa. One game was lost to the weather, and that was as recently as June. It was the culmination of a five-match series which had seen an injury-hit India team, captained by Rishabh Pant, lose the first two games, before responding with victory in the two that followed.
Prior to that, the last time South Africa visited India in 2019; that series also ended in a draw.
And, with these two sides also drawn together along with Pakistan and Bangladesh in Group 2 of the Super 12 stage of the T20I World Cup next month, this is a good chance for one side to lay down a psychological marker to the other.
Recent T20I results
Since the pair met in June, South Africa have played a T20I series in England which they drew, followed by two matches against Ireland which they won easily.
India had a convincing series win in the West Indies but then suffered disappointment at the Asia Cup, which they started as favourites but failed to make the final this time.
When they lost the first match of their T20I series against Australia, fingers began to be pointed, but victories in the next two games have helped silence the critics – for now.
Bavuma has a point to prove
One man with a point to prove is South Africa’s white ball captain Temba Bavuma, who went unsold in the recent auction for the country’s new launched T20 league. He will be desperate to prove the various franchise owners involved wrong, as will all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo, another man who failed to attract any bids.
The pitch, with its hard-rolled surface, appears ideally suited to batting, so this should be a high-scoring match. There may be some swing for the bowlers early on, which means that the toss may be an important one to win. Notwithstanding that, of the two previous T2OIs played on this ground, one was one by the team batting first and the other by the chasing side.
The weather is forecast to be clear, with scattered clouds, but very little chance of rain. That means that there should be no interruptions to play.
Predicted Indian team
India will probably field the same team as beat Australia in Hyderabad on Sunday. With their first match in the World Cup now less than a month ago, the time for experimentation must now be over, which means bad news for those on the fringes like Pant.
The selectors will also be hoping that more time spent in the middle will help their misfiring bowling unit find some collective form.
Although South Africa arguably had the better of the June series, the India side they will be facing this time is back to full strength. And, just having beaten the number one-ranked T2OI side and favourites for the World Cup, India will be confident of defeating the South Africans as well.
Given that the two will face each other on October 30th in Perth, a good win would also have psychological benefits as well ahead of that match.
VISIT OUR BLG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES