South Africa v India, three-match Test series
December 26-January 15
First Test, December 26-30, Supersport Park (8am UK)
Pace like fire! This series is one which includes some serious fast bowling talent, even discounting South Africa’s Anrich Nortje, who has been ruled out of all three matches due to a nagging hip injury.
Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier – the man set to be Nortje’s replacement for the Proteas – Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are just four names who fall into that category. And they will be aided by some pitches with pace and bounce.
Let’s cut to the chase. India are favourites (6/5 Bet365) to win the series, and rightly so.
In beating New Zealand 2-0 at home last month, they regained the tag as the world’s number one ranked Test side in the process.
They may never have won a series in South Africa, but in the last 12 months, they have claimed an away series win in Australia and were 2-1 up in England when they pulled out of that tour in September.
The stronger of the two sides, they are also in rhythm given that aforementioned series win over the Kiwis. In contrast, South Africa haven’t played Test cricket since winning 2-0 in the West Indies in June.
Not only are South Africa without prolific Nortje, their leading Test wicket-taker in 2021 with 25 from five matches, but Quinton de Kock is highly unlikely to be available for the whole series due to impending paternity leave.
His wife is due to give birth in early January, meaning his participation in the second and/or third Tests at Johannesburg and Cape Town is in doubt.
It was therefore a major surprise to see him priced as the 11/4 joint favourite to be South Africa’s leading series run-scorer alongside Aiden Markram.
One man who does appeal as South Africa’s leading series run-scorer is Rassie van der Dussen at 4/1 (Bet365).
Openers Markram and Dean Elgar could easily come unstuck against the new ball, opening the door for van der Dussen in the middle order to strike. Different format, yes, but he enjoyed a productive T20 World Cup and looks at home at this level.
When looking down the odds, 7/1 (Bet365) on Shreyas Iyer to be India’s top series run-scorer immediately catches the eye, especially on the back of a century and fifty on debut against New Zealand at Kanpur. But, reading the Indian press, he is not guaranteed to play with other options such as Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkye Rahane under consideration. A small stake on Iyer would be advised.
Olivier, still contracted as an overseas player with Yorkshire, is set to make his return to international cricket after three years away. And he does so on the back of 28 wickets in four SA first-class games for the Lions over the last couple of months. His price of 10/3 (Bet365) as South Africa’s top series bowler should be seriously considered.
It is a shame that Covid restrictions mean this series will be played behind closed doors because it is a contest which has so much appeal, starting at Supersport (Centurion) Park on Boxing Day.
For that opening Test, back India to get off to a flyer and win it at 6-5 (Bet365), thus setting them up for that series win.