India have just one tour match to complete their adjustment to South African conditions before the Test series begins. The game will be played in Benoni, a ground known mostly for its friendliness toward batsmen.
What: South Africa Invitational XI vs. Indians
Where: Willowmoore Park, Benoni
When: Friday - Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, 8 a.m. GMT (10 p.m. SAST)
Live Stream/TV info: No broadcast
Weather: According to Weather-Forecast.com the weather should be clear enough to get in a full day's play on both days. Late afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon in this part of the world, though, but overall, the weather should be clear.
Although on the surface this is just a tour game, there is much more to it than that. While none of South Africa's Test regulars are in the Invitational squad and none of the players are seriously pushing for a place in the Test side yet, it's still the cream of the crop of the domestic players. South Africa are by no means going to let India get off lightly.
For India, this game is the ideal opportunity to gain a little bit of confidence before the Test series begins. They had the wind well and truly knocked out of them after the 2-0 defeat in the one-day series and if there ever was a time to take advantage of more neutral conditions, it's now.
Lose or stutter, though, and India will be going into the Test series as the walking wounded. South Africa have selected a group of some of their best fringe players which includes batsmen who have been in fine form on the domestic circuit and a couple of bowlers who are quite special.
Captain Stephen Cook has scored 349 runs in South Africa's domestic four-day game so far while Stiaan van Zyl tops the charts with 350 runs at an average of 116.66. Temba Bavuma is another standout batsman with an average well over 50 this season. With that kind of batting, India's bowlers getting some sort of rhythm will be the visitor's biggest challenge. The South Africans who will walk out to wield the willow are no fools and they will make it tough for the Indian players.
Similarly, the Invitational side's bowlers pack some punch. Beuran Hendricks with his left-arm pace tops the wicket-taking charts with 13 wickets at an average of 19.61 while Hardus Viljoen is a true pace bowler who also has 13 wickets in three games. As far as Invitational sides go, South Africa have put out a pretty strong team who will almost certainly put up a fight worth anyone's money.
Stiaan van Zyl is a classic left-hand batsman who oozes class and makes you yearn for the days where the slog sweep did not exist. He finds himself in superb domestic form and has the kind of temperament which will drive bowlers round the bend trying to get him out.
Zaheer Khan is the one Indian bowler who hasn't really had a chance to test his bowling skills in South African conditions in a competitive situation on this tour. His experience will be vital in the Test series coming up, but before he gets around to that, he first needs to get into the right gear and this match is the ideal opportunity to do so.
South Africa Invitational: Stephen Cook (capt), Temba Bavuma, Andrew Birch, Simon Harmer, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Eddie Leie, Chris Morris, Rilee Rossouw, Yaseen Vallie, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen
Indians: MS Dhoni (c & wk), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma.
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