South Africa vs India 2018: 5 player battles to look out for in SA-IND Test series

South Africa vs India 2018: 5 player battles to look out for in SA-IND Test series

The Test series between South Africa and India is probably one of the most awaited series in the first half of 2018. India have toured South Africa on six occasions and have never won a series there. In fact, it was only in 2006 that they managed to get their first Test win in the Rainbow Nation.

Thus, out of 17 Tests, India have played in South Africa, they’ve won just 2 games and lost 8. However, this time around India have a much-balanced side which is in very good form.

Hence, they have a great chance of creating history this time around.

South Africa, on the other hand, have been pretty solid and dominant at home. After a long time, they have a full-strength squad (with all players fit). They will be looking to continue the good work they’ve done over the last year or so.

Hence, there is a lot to look forward to ahead of the series and here we look at 5 player battles to watch out for in the series. 


#5 Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Dean Elgar

Dean Elgar was the 3rd highest run-getter in Tests in 2017. He has been pretty consistent at the top of the order for South Africa. Even in England when most batsmen struggled, Elgar found ways to score runs.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, on the other hand, has immensely grown as a player and his confidence is high after an impactful 2017. He will be very crucial with the new ball for India. His ability to move the ball around is second to none.

Hence, this battle between India’s best swing bowler and South Africa’s gritty opener should be an intriguing contest. Also, Dean Elgar doesn’t have a great record against India. He has scored only 137 runs in 7 innings. Though he’s played them only in India, the Indian seamers did manage to trouble him on occasions.

However, Elgar has improved since that tour and has been very good against the new ball. Hence, this spices up his battle with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. 

#4 Ishant Sharma vs Faf du Plessis

Image result for Ishant Sharma and Faf du Plessis 2017
Faf du Plessis will look to lead from the front.

South African skipper Faf du Plessis will be itching to take the field and lead the Proteas in the first Test after being out of action for more than 2 months. He was in very good form before he injured his back. His last three innings (against Bangladesh) saw scores of 26 not out, 81 and 135 not out. Hence, he would’ve been disappointed to miss the game against Zimbabwe.

Ishant Sharma has found his rhythm back after a successful Ranji Trophy season where he took 20 wickets in 4 games. He looked very good in the two games he played against Sri Lanka as well. Hence, with all his experience, he will have a major role to play in the middle overs of the South African innings.

Ishant has the ability to generate extra bounce which can trouble the South African skipper. Ben Stokes exploited that in England in July last year. He also falls prey to the incoming delivery and hence could be a candidate for LBW as well. These are also Ishant Sharma’s strengths and thus, he will be looking to knock over Faf du Plessis early. 

#3 Vernon Philander vs Murali Vijay

Image result for Murali Vijay leaving the ball
Vijay's judgment outside the off-stump is superb.

Murali Vijay has been one of the best players of the new ball in this Indian team over the last 2-3 years. He has performed well on most of the overseas tours. His strength has been his judgement outside the off-stump. There’s no doubt that he is one of the most elegant stroke-players, but the way he leaves the ball outside the off-stump is just as beautiful as his cover-drive. Hence, he will be very crucial against the South African new ball attack.

Vernon Philander along with Morne Morkel will lead South Africa’s charge with the new ball. And Philander is one of the best exponents of the moving ball. He can run in all-day and bowl in one particular spot. Also, he looked in a good rhythm against Zimbabwe (in the Boxing Day Test) after missing the Test series against Bangladesh due to a back niggle.

Hence, at one end we have the patience of Murali Vijay and at the other end, we have the consistency of Vernon Philander. It is certainly one of the battles to watch out for in the Test series. 

#2 Mohammed Shami vs Hashim Amla

Image result for Mohammed Shami vs Hashim Amla
Shami has got Amla twice in Test cricket and the latter has been bowled on both occasions.

Hashim Amla is one of the calmest cricketers you will see on the cricket field. And in 2017, he’s hardly been noticed and still has amassed 942 runs in 11 Tests. He’s been South Africa’s go-to batsman for the past few years now.

Mohammed Shami will be leading the Indian pace attack. He is certainly one of the bowlers to watch out for in this series. His seam presentation is one of the best in world cricket at the moment. He also has the ability to generate good speeds and bowl stump-to-stump.

Thus, Shami’s battle against Amla will be a very good one. Shami likes to target stumps and Amla loves playing on the leg-side. Also, Shami has got Hashim Amla’s number in both Tests and ODIs. In 2 Tests, Amla has got out the Bengal pacer twice and three times in 4 ODI games. Hence, that stat sets things up very well. Shami vs Amla will be a nice and intense battle. 

#1 Morne Morkel vs Virat Kohli

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Kohli will be looking the dominate the South African attack.

Virat Kohli has been the pillar of this Indian batting line-up for the last 3-4 years now. He has been very consistent for quite some time now. He has also scored runs in South Africa when he was there last time around in 2013.

After injuries cut short a promising 2016, he returned with a bang in 2017. Morne Morkel has bowled brilliantly throughout last year. He took 39 wickets in 9 Tests and looked threatening in almost every spell that he bowled. He looked almost unplayable in his spell of 5/21 against Zimbabwe in the Boxing Day Test. He looks to be in prime form.

Morkel’s face-off against Kohli will a one to watch out for. The tall lanky pacer has got India’s skipper on a couple of occasions in both Tests and ODIs (four times in total). Also, Morkel loves to be in the batsman’s face and Kohli isn’t the one who will shy away from giving a response.

Hence, we can expect a fascinating battle between South Africa’s pace spearhead and India’s captain as both players seem to be on the top of their game. 

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