After the T20I series ended in a stalemate, India and South Africa will now battle it out for supremacy in the longest format of the game. The first Test will be held at the ACA-VDCA Stadium in Visakhapatnam. The two teams have met each other 36 times in this format. South Africa have the upper hand, having won 15 of these encounters compared to India’s 11 with 10 matches having ended in a draw. In the last five Tests, India have the lead having won three of them.
In India though the story is completely in the hosts’ favour. India have won four of the last five clashes with one ending in a draw.
Ground detail and team combination
Spinners have enjoyed their time at this venue. Out of the 39 wickets to fall here in the only Test, 25 went to the spinners at an average of 25.98 and a strike rate of 59.32. Pacers, on the other hand, returned 14 wickets at an average of 29 and a strike rate of 62.57. The narrative has been similar in the last three ODIs here too with spinners taking 25 of the 40 wickets to fall at 25.96 while pacers have picked up 15 wickets at 50.26.
As mentioned above, spinners have largely been successful at this ground. Off-spinners, in particular, have good numbers. Out of the 39 wickets to fall here, 16 were picked by them at an average of 18.93 and a strike rate of 42.5.
Interestingly, R Ashwin is the only one out of two frontline right-arm off-spinners across both sides, certainly not a bad one to have. He has a good record here too, having picked up eight wickets in the match against England.
On the batting front, the surface has seen scores in excess of 300 quite regularly across formats. So, a strong top four might be the way to go.
Virat Kohli has an impressive record against South Africa, averaging a healthy 47.37 in nine matches. He was the leading run-scorer across both sides when India toured South Africa in 2018 and will certainly fancy his chances on home turf.
Kohli has a terrific record across formats in Visakhapatnam. In the only Test played here against England back in 2016, Kohli scored 165 and 81 to lead India to a 246-run win. In ODIs, the Indian skipper averages a whopping 139 at this ground in five matches, which includes three centuries.
Aiden Markram has been South Africa’s best batsman in terms of runs in Tests since the start of 2018. A total of 978 runs in 14 Tests at an average of 36.22 which includes five fifties and two tons, Markram has been prolific for the Proteas at the top of the order. Another important statistic in favour of Markram is his record against spin. He is one of the few South African batsmen to average better against spin than pace. That will play a huge role in Indian conditions. He has warmed up pretty well too – scoring 161 and 100 versus India A and Board President’s XI respectively.
After Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara has emerged as one of the most important names for India in Tests. Since the start of 2018, Pujara has scored a whopping 1091 runs in 16 Tests at an average of 40.37. He has good memories of Visakhapatnam as well, having scored 119 at this ground in the only Test back in 2016.
Our third x-factor is Ravindra Jadeja. Although Ashwin undoubtedly has a better overall Test record, Jadeja has – over the past couple of years – emerged as the better all-round package. Since the start of 2018, Jadeja has played eight Tests where he has picked up 33 wickets at an average of 24.66. Ashwin, on the other hand, has returned 38 wickets in 10 Tests while averaging 25.36. Jadeja has been better with the bat too during this time frame averaging 48 to Ashwin’s 20.40. Another thing to note here is that Ashwin has not played any international cricket this year while Jadeja has excelled across all formats.
The weather in the lead up to the first Test has been pretty damp. The forecast for the first two days of the Test is also that of rain, but the clouds are likely to clear by the third day. The temperature is estimated to hover around the 32 degree mark on average across the five days.
Suggested FanFight Team:
Aiden Markram, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara (vc), Virat Kohli (c), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Temba Bavuma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Keshav Maharaj, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada