ODI series preview: South Africa v India

India

South Africa go into the ODI series against India this week on the back of a first-ever home series defeat to Pakistan, and they will hope that the trend does not continue as India have never won an ODI series in SA.

South Africa go into the ODI series against India this week on the back of a first-ever home series defeat to Pakistan, and they will hope that the trend does not continue as India have never won an ODI series in SA.

The series finally comes to pass after months of bad blood between the countries' cricket boards, and instead of the seven-game ODI series originally promised by CSA, now there will only be three, and none in Cape Town.

India are the number one fifty-over side in the world, and for good reason. They have not lost an ODI series this year, which makes six on the trot, and their most recent tour to Africa saw them beat Zimbabwe five-nil in July.

South Africa are not Zimbabwe, for sure, but India will be confident of recording a seventh series win, given the Proteas' unbalanced state and recent defeats. The hosts have not enjoyed the shorter format in 2013, also losing a series to Sri Lanka.

On the plus side for the Proteas, veterans Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Graeme Smith are all fit to play, though some have argued that the two batsmen are causing more problems than solutions, disrupting the foundation that an overall young side were building.

But a fit Kallis is not someone to be discarded, and Smith's below-30 average in ODIs in the past three years will still not see him dropped. Thus, the in-form Quinton de Kock is likely to bat at three as Biff and Hashim Amla open.

Kallis' fitness is Ryan McLaren's loss, as it's unlikely that both all-rounders will be put in the same starting XI. McLaren was enjoying a good run in the side while 'Jakes' took a break from ODIs, but the veteran's half ton against Pakistan cemented his return.

For the visitors, they boast two of the most in-form top order batsmen in Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, while Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni complete a very formidable line-up. The home bowlers will have it all to do to keep scores below 250-300.

On the bowling front though, India will need Mohammed Shami to continue his good run of form, especially after the pacemen disappointed overall against Australia, with the batsmen saving the side repeatedly in chasing 300-plus targets.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For the hosts, opening batsman <b>Hashim Amla</b> will prove pivotal in both setting and chasing, coming into the series with two good scores against Pakistan, one of which was 98 in a narrow defeat.

India have a variety of deadly players, but <b>Virat Kohli</b> is the top ODI run-getter in 2013 (narrowly ahead of Rohit and Dhawan) and if he gets going then it is probably all over bar the shouting.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013 Champions Trophy: India won by 26 runs in Cardiff<br>March 2011: South Africa won by three wickets in Nagpur<br>2011, fifth ODI: South Africa won by 33 runs in Centurion<br>2011, fourth ODI: South Africa won by 48 runs in Port Elizabeth<br>2011, third ODI: India won by two wickets in Cape Town

<b>Prediction</b><br>We could say that a winning run is meant to be broken, and the Proteas will end India's streak, but we won't. Instead, neither side will win this much-anticipated series, as one game will be rained off and the spoils shared.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>South Africa:</i> AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

<i>India:</i> MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ambati Rayudu, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI: 5 December in Johannesburg<br>Second ODI: 8 December in Durban<br>Third ODI: 11 December in Centurion

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