Australia’s starting XI for Thursday’s opener features two front-line spin options in Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa. That may be a consequence of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc not being part of the series, but it also suggests they are cognisant of spinning conditions in India.
The Proteas, by contrast, have Kagiso Rabada, Coetzee, Marco Jansen — all of whom are capable bowling 140km/h-plus — and Lungi Ngidi in their starting line-up, with Keshav Maharaj the sole spinner. The home team are leaning heavily on their historic strength, in the belief that even in perfect batting conditions pace is unsettling.
Australia have a host of all-rounders in their World Cup squad, while South Africa are relying on bowlers “who bat a bit”. It’s a dangerous ploy, as evidenced in the T20 series, when the top order collapsed twice, exposing the tail.
The Proteas are understandably confident about their top-six batters for ODIs, but a great many limited-overs matches are decided by runs from the lower order. No 7 seems a spot too high for Jansen, Coetzee or Sisanda Magala, yet the selectors are trusting a combined effort from them, with Maharaj and Rabada — both capable with the willow — to get the necessary runs.