After off-the-field sentiments dominating the news, Test cricket finally returns and the much-awaited India’s tour of South Africa begins on Sunday. The first of the three-match Test is scheduled to be played from 26th to 30th December 2021 at SuperSport Park in Centurion. India have toured South Africa for a Test series on seven occasions.
They are yet to win a Test series on their turf. So far, they have only managed to win 3 Test matches in South Africa. On that note, let’s take a look at how both the teams shape up ahead of the much-anticipated first Test.
India’s resurgence in Test cricket began in South Africa roughly four years ago, when the side secured a famous win in Johannesburg under Kohli’s captaincy but lost the series 1-2. In the following years, India won two-Test series in Australia and lead England 2-1 in a five-match away rubber, with the final Test scheduled to be played next year.
In the 39 matches played between these 2 teams, India have won 14 matches and South Africa have won 15 matches. Batsmen of both teams have earned the most fantasy points for their respective teams so far.
Test cricket: Boxing Day Test
The Test cricket series will mark the return of a number of first-choice Test players, who were either rested or injured for the recently-concluded home series against New Zealand.
India have a lot to ponder in the batting department. KL Rahul is a starter with Mayank Agarwal accompanying him. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli too are sure starters. Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, and Hanuma Vihari will fight for the number five position. Rahane could get a nod ahead of the two in the first test.
R Ashwin is likely to be the sole spinner. Shardul Thakur is likely to make it into the playing XI. Mohammad Siraj and Ishant Sharma will fight for the third pacers’ spot.
India will be going with five quality fast bowlers such as Jasprit Bumrah, M Shami, Ishant Sharma, M Siraj and Umesh Yadav. It will be interesting to see how many of them feature in the playing XI for the first Test.
The pitch at the SuperSport Park, Centurion will allow for good stroke play and the batters will find it easy to bat on the surface. It will not allow a lot of assistance to the bowlers and wicket-taking is not going to be easy.
Test cricket: Home comforts?
South Africa have not played many Test cricket during 2021 but they will want to make their final one count as they take on an Indian side that they have never lost to on home soil.
The Proteas were 2-0 winners over the West Indies in their last series and they will hope to build on that but their hopes could be impacted by the potential loss of Quinton de Kock to paternity leave at the conclusion of this contest while paceman Anrich Nortje has been ruled out through injury.
Dean Elgar is a new captain and it will be interesting to see how he leads the team against a strong Indian team. Dean Elgar is the most experience batter in the squad, having played 69 Tests so far. The likes of Rassie van der Dussen (10), Aiden Markram (26), and Temba Bavuma (44) too have a decent experience if not a lot.
Having said that, it won’t be wrong to say that the current South African team isn’t as good as the previous ones. Lack of experience is something to ponder. Quinton de Kock might not be available for two out of three due to the birth of his first child.