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Tough challenge for India vs fiery S. Africa Proteas boast stable batting order and formidable attack

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 16, (AFP): The odds seem stacked against India as they prepare to take on world champions South Africa in their first Test series since the retirement of batting icon Sachin Tendulkar. The first of two Test matches starts at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on Wednesday, a ground which should suit South Africa’s formidable fast bowling attack. India have had minimal opportunity to adjust to South Africa’s fast, bouncy pitches. On a tour controversially shortened to the minimum three one-day internationals and two Tests, they were bowled out for 217 and 146 in the first two one-day games and did not bat in the final match because of rain. A planned two-day match against a South African Invitation XI was abandoned without a ball bowled.

Under the original itinerary announced by South Africa, but rejected by India, the tourists would have played in two Twenty20 internationals, seven one-day internationals and two two-day games before playing the first Test. India have won their most recent six Test matches but all were played at home. They have not played a Test outside India since January 2012 when they were beaten 4-0 in Australia to extend to eight their losing streak away from home. Before that they lost by the same margin in England. South Africa have gone unbeaten in 13 series in their ascent to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings but their most recent two series against second-ranked India, away in 2009/10 and at home the following season, have ended tied at 1-1. South Africa boast a stable batting order and a formidable pace attack.

AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla are first and second in the Test batting rankings, with Graeme Smith and veteran Jacques Kallis also in the top 12. India’s highest-ranked batsman is Cheteshwar Pujara, at six, while Virat Kohli and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni are 20th and 21st.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), AB de Villiers (vice-captain, wkt), Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Rory Kleinveldt, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile (wkt).

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wkt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha (wkt), Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.

Umpires: Steve Davis, Rod Tucker (both AUS). Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM).

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