South Africa will be out to start its tour of India on a positive note in the opening T20 International (T20I) against India at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium in Dharamsala on Friday evening. The short turnaround of matches in the three-match series leaves little room for a slow start, with winning momentum a valuable asset in the long 72-day tour. This is the first T20I to be hosted by the picturesque 23 000-seater HPCA stadium, despite the venue being a second home ground for IPL team, Kings XI Punjab.
Many of the players will have played at the stadium during the IPL and will be familiar with conditions and challenges that come with day-night matches. The bowlers even practised with wet balls in anticipation of the dew which can be a challenging factor. Captain Faf Du Plessis says: ‘I had a look at the wicket today and it still is a little bit damp underneath. There are still two days of sun to come on it so we are hoping that it will be a good cricket wicket with a lot in it for the batsmen but also some good carry. If I can compare it to the nets then it will be good to bat on in the middle and we can have a game full of boundaries which will be a lot different to the conditions in Delhi. This is probably the quickest wicket in India so it’s a nice way to start our campaign with a wicket that will suit both teams.’
While pace continues to be the Proteas’ key weapon, the captain is confident with the spinning options of Imran Tahir, JP Duminy and Eddie Leie going into the series. Du Plessis says: ‘Imran has proven over the last few years that he can change a game, especially in white-ball cricket. In the last two years he has changed the way we play in limited-overs cricket, he has gotten wickets in the middle overs when we have always relied on pace to strike for us. Recently, our success as a T20 and ODI team has been heavily placed on his shoulders, he has done really well. JP, although he is seen as a part-time spinner, has had good success in the T20 format and Eddie Leie will come here and learn and to get an idea of how to bowl on these wickets and also tap into Imran’s experience.’