India and South Africa are all set to play their last T20I bilateral series before both teams head to Australia for the T20 World Cup. The Proteas are coming on a high of having beaten England 2-1 and Ireland 2-0 in T20Is while the men in blue, too, are high on confidence after beating world champions Australia 2-1 at home. The first T20I of the three-match series between India and South Africa will be played on Wednesday in Thiruvananthapuram.
India have rested star all-rounder Hardik Pandya and senior pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the series. Bowling all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed has been announced as Pandya’s replacement. Also, promising fast bowler Arshdeep Singh will be making a comeback to the team as he takes Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s place in the squad. Shreyas Iyer, meanwhile, has come in as replacement to Deepak Hooda who sustained a back injury during the series against Australia.
The hosts ticked all the right boxes against Australia at home except for their death bowling. With the entry of Arshdeep Singh, who did well in the death during the Asia Cup, India might sort out their woes ahead of the T20 World Cup. India is likely to go with Arshdeep, Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel as the three pacers against South Africa. While Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal are predicted to make the cut as the spinners in the playing XI.
Although India would miss all-rounder Pandya, it is highly likely that Rishabh Pant would get the chance in his place ahead of all-rounder Shahbaz. Pant didn’t get the opportunity to bat in the previous series and team management would probably like to give him much-needed exposure before the T20 World Cup. India’s opening looks sorted with KL Rahul and captain Rohit Sharma in the fray, while the middle order will be taken care of by Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav. Dinesh Karthik is likely to be a part of XI as skipper Rohit had talked about giving him more time in the middle as a batter. The 37-year-old might also be promoted in the batting order ahead of Pant for this reason.
Here is the predicted XI for 1st T20I between India and South Africa
Openers: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul
Top and middle order: Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav
Power hitters: Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik (wk)
Spin options: Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal
Pace options: Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Jasprit Bumrah
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