The good news is that this series is not without context. South Africa plays for World Cup Super League points. And they are desperate to get them. The better news – for them – is that they’re up against a second tier Indian side who can’t ride too much on these three games and could be ripe to pick.
But the bad news? There aren’t really any, unless you were hoping to see India’s best ODI players over the next six days. Oh, and there’s a lot of rain in the area – especially for the first two games – which could put a damper on the whole thing.
Instead of thinking about all that, South Africa is putting a laser-like focus on the task ahead – to get as close as possible to automatic qualification for next year’s ODI World Cup, which will be played in India and where they get a taste of the kind of action they don’t want to miss.
Since South Africa’s visit for five T20Is back on the Indian site at full capacity earlier this year in June, the stadiums have been filled with the noise and color that the Covid-19 pandemic has robbed us of. It is those people that Indian coach Rahul Dravid – who will not be in charge of the ODI team if he leaves early for Australia – told broadcasters after the third T20I that India has been delighted to play for. They’ve had a plethora of home games – which, you could say, get lost in the bigger picture – but Indian coach Dravid recognized the joy it brought to the spectators. Context is important, of course, but cricket can also just be cricket.
India WWWWW (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
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In the spotlight
Temba Bavuma needs runs and needs them fast as he gears up for the T20 World Cup after coming back from injury. Until the T20Is on this tour, Bavuma hadn’t played international cricket since April after missing the South African tour of England with an elbow problem and having had a scorching time since his return.
With two ducks and a rating of 3 from the T20I series, his shape is a major concern; but the longer white-ball format may give him a chance to turn things around. With time to build an inning and little pressure to go full tilt from the first ball, Bavuma can focus on both the technique and pace of his game, finding some confidence in the build-up to the World Cup.
The anticipation surrounding Royal Challengers Bangalore star Rajat Patidar could come to an end as he makes his international debut in this series, but he competes with Rahul Tripathi, who has been around the national set-up for the past few months.
India (possibly): 1 Shikhar Dhawan (capt), 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Sanju Samson (wk), 6 Rahul Tripathi/Rajat Patidar, 7 Shardul Thakur, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Ravi Bishnoi, 11 Mohammed Siraj
South Africa will not send any of their players to Australia early for the T20 World Cup, so they will have their entire squad at their disposal. Bavuma is expected to be a direct exchange for the injured England series Rassie van der Dussen, with the rest of the mid-range – Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller – likely to remain consistent.
South Africa (possibly): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Janneman Malan, 3 Temba Bavuma, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Heinrich Klaasen, 6 David Miller, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo/Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Anrich Nortje/Marco Jansen, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Kagiso Rabada
Location and conditions
Neither team has ever played an ODI at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow, with most of its international competitions between Afghanistan and the West Indies in 2019. There, in three ODIs, the average score in the first innings was 230, suggesting that the ground does not support quick scoring. However, India has played two T20Is on the ground and totaled 195 and 199, which may indicate otherwise. It has been raining heavily in Lucknow and showers are expected for most of the day.
Statistics and trivia
That means if they win all of their remaining matches – and have no overruns resulting in a points penalty – they end up with a total of 129 points. England, Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan already have 120 with six games left to play.
“Everyone knows how important the next eight games are for the Proteas in the ODI format. We are trying to maximize the points. The World Cup is in India. It’s nice to get a good preparation and put in good performances to hope to participate in the tournament.” “
South Africa will do everything it can to ensure they go to the World Cup next year, according to Janneman Malan
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South African correspondent