India’s home season did not get off to the ideal start with persistent rain abandoning the opening T20 International against South Africa in Dharamsala. The caravan now moves on to Mohali with both teams desperate for the first blow.
India have not been able to get past South Africa in a home T20I series as yet but against a slightly inexperienced unit they have the perfect chance to come up trumps.
They have a good record at the PCA Stadium having won both T20Is they have played here. Moreover being the home ground of Kings XI Punjab at the IPL, a lot of the players in the current squad have enough experience of playing at the venue.
The surface in Mohali has historically been a batsman’s paradise. In four T20Is here, the average first-innings score has been 185. Even at the IPL, scores in excess of 160 have been a norm on this ground. In the very first T20I played here back in 2009, India had chased down Sri Lanka’s 206-run target by six wickets with minimum of fuss.
What should further alarm the South Africans is the record of India’s top-order in Mohali in the white-ball format. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul have all been amongst the runs across formats here. While Rohit Sharma has not played a lot of T20 cricket, his 50-over numbers at this venue are colossal. In five One-Day Internationals, the opener has amassed 410 runs at 102.5 which includes two half-centuries and a 208*.
Kohli too has a good ODI and T20I record at this ground. He averages 51.5 across seven ODIs here which includes a century and a fifty. In the only T20I that he played here, he smashed a clinical 52-ball 81 back at the 2016 World T20 to help India secure a thrilling win.
The other factor to take into consideration in Mohali are the ground dimensions. The PCA Stadium has one of the bigger playing surfaces across the country and clearing the field especially against the slower bowlers hasn’t always been easy. This is reflected in statistics as well.
The pacers have picked up a total of 25 wickets in four T20Is in Mohali at a rather alarming economy of 9.25 and strike-rate of 25.0. The spinners, on the other hand have returned 15 wickets but at a far better economy rate of 7.85 while striking every 21.6 balls.
Both South Africa and India have their share of spinners. While the visitors have Tabraiz Shamsi, Bjorn Fortuin and George Linde leading the spin department, India boast of the more experienced Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar and Washington Sundar in their setup.
The hosts’ experience and the fact that they have a fair knowhow of the conditions, certainly gives them an upper hand going into the game.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the visitors. They might not have a star-studded unit but a deeper analysis shows they have a side that can give India a run for their money.
The one area that the South Africans can potentially target is India’s slightly weakened fast bowling unit. Khaleel Ahmed with 11 T20Is to his name is the most capped pacer in the Indian side, but he has struggled with consistency so far in his short career. Deepak Chahar (2 T20Is) and Navdeep Saini (3 T20Is) are the other two pacers in the side.
In comparison, the visitors boast of a much rounded fast bowling unit, comprising Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje alongside pace bowling all-rounders in Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo. The Indian middle-order has been their Achilles heel for a while now and if South Africa can somehow topple the top three, they might succeed in restricting India.
On the batting front, South Africa will rely on the likes of Quinton de Kock and David Miller to guide their inexperienced batting unit. The latter, in particular, will be the key. Miller has been a part of the Punjab setup since 2012 and knows the ins and outs of this ground like anything. In 25 T20 games, Miller has smashed 628 runs at an average of 41.86 which includes a century and a fifty.
Reeza Hendricks too can be another important member at the top of the order. He had a good run leading into the T20I series with the South Africa A setup. In the 50-over List A series against India A, Hendricks returned as the highest run-scorer across both sides smoking 239 runs in five innings at 59.75 including two fifties and a hundred.
While on paper, India look the more balanced unit, South Africa have a few players that can give the hosts a run for their money.
Pitch and weather conditions
After the cold and damp conditions in Dharamsala, Mohali should provide the players some welcome relief. With the winter starting to set in, the temperature is expected to hover around the 28-degree mark and the evening breeze should provide optimum conditions for a perfect game of cricket.
The surface is expected to be a haven for batsmen and we might have a high-scoring encounter.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Bjorn Fortuin, Tabraiz Shamsi, Junior Dala