With South Africa’s automatic World Cup qualification in doubt and with them not having played an ODI in India for an astonishing seven years, there are many questions surrounding the Proteas as they go into the first ODI against the hosts in Lucknow on Thursday.
But at least they will be going into the series with several in-form batsmen, with confidence high from the T20 series. David Miller, Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram all looked in prime form by the end of that series, while Temba Bavuma returns to 50-over action having missed the series in England due to injury. He will welcome the less frenetic tempo and his form has been decent in this format, averaging 36.75 in his last 10 innings, including a brilliant 110 against India in Paarl in January.
Bavuma is also likely to bat at three given the return of Janneman Malan to continue his successful opening partnership with De Kock. Although his form has dropped a bit of late since his sensational debut in 2020, Malan still averages 52.70 at a strike-rate of 85 in his 20 ODIs.
Heinrich Klaasen is another who did not feature in the T20s but should play tomorrow given that there is no Tristan Stubbs in the squad.
Malan pointed to be there being more time and less pressure for the South African batsmen in the ODIs.
“As an opener, I’ve definitely experienced, a couple of times, not being in form or not having a lot of matches under your belt. There can be a lot of pressure when that happens in T20, because it is quick-moving and you have the pressure of the run-rate,” Malan said on Wednesday.
“You feel like you have to make a move, but ODIs are easier, you can take your time a bit to get in.
“We’re all just showing Temba some love because he’s in a bit of a patch at the moment. But that can change quickly and he has a chance now to find some form before the World Cup.
“We’re all pulling for him because he’s a good leader and very valuable in our space,” Malan said.
The last ODI series South Africa were scheduled to play in India was in March 2020. The first match was washed out without a ball being bowled in Dharamsala, and then the terrible Covid pandemic struck and the next two games were cancelled. Their previous ODI series in India was in October 2015, when they won the series 3-2. They scored 438/4 in the decider in Mumbai, De Kock, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers all scoring centuries, and they then bowled the hosts out for 224.
The Proteas’ record in ODIs in India is far from awful – they have won 13 and lost 15.