With a 72-day marathon home series lined up for India against South Africa who begins with a tour game in Delhi on September 29, it would be interesting to see how batsmen from either side could perform.
Batting beauties are expected to be the norm of the day and batsmen from both sides are expected to leave an indelible mark.
Keeping recent games between the two teams in mind (from 2013) here is a chronological look at who stood out.
The Shikhar Dhawan show!
The two teams met in the 2013 Champions Trophy in England at Cardiff on June 6 with India winning an exciting game by 26 runs.
If Rohit Sharma’s pugnacious 65 was good, Shikhar Dhawan played out a masterful 94-ball 114 which showed why is he such a highly rated batsman.
Those two knocks helped India put up a huge 331 on board.
Both players made good use of a track that had everything going for batsmen and laid the platform to what eventually proved to be a dream, ending with victory against England in the finale at Birmingham.
Though Robin Peterson (68), Ab De Villiers (70) and Ryan McLaren (71) kept the score card ticking for South Africa – tight bowling and clever fielding ensured a fine win for MS Dhoni’s India.
But then South Africa had their revenge in late December when they beat India 2-0 in a three-game home ODI series.
Lightning strikes thrice!
Quinton De Kock’s three consecutive centuries proved to be the catalyst as South Africa laid down the marker with some ferocious batting.
The South African also became the fifth player in cricket history to score three ODI hundreds in a row.
If De Kock hurt the Indians with a 121-ball 135 in the first ODI at Johannesburg, then his 106 in the following game at Durban was a measured one in comparison.
Hashim Amla’s calm 65 helped set up a match winning 150-run partnership for the first wicket with De Kock which was followed by Ab De Villiers (77) and JP Duminy (59*) blasting through India later on in the first game.
Also, Hashim Amla’s steady 100 was one of the highlights of the second game which set up another 150 plus run-partnership with De Kock.
Come the third game, De Kock went one ahead and slammed another fiery 101 at Centurion but was bettered this time by skipper De Villiers who blasted five sixes in a superb 109.
David Miller joined the party later with a fiery 34-ball 56 as South Africa totally walloped India’s bowlers.
India had nothing to speak of in the batting department apart from Dhoni’s fine 65 in the first game none of the others registered a half-century.
For the record South Africa won the first two games by huge margins while India thanked rains for washing out the third.
Great escape for South Africa
Next up was a two-Test series which South Africa wrapped up 1-0.
Highlights of the first drawn Test at Johannesburg were of course a young Virat Kohli putting the home side to the sword with a swashbuckling 119 in the first essay.
Apart from half-centuries by skipper Graeme Smith (68) and Vernon Philander (59), South Africa collapsed in their first essay and looked in danger of losing.
Come India’s second essay and Cheteshwar Pujara’s 270-ball 153 ground the life out of South Africa and Kohli came back to haunt them with a well measured 96.
Faced with a world-record target of 458 to chase in the final essay, it was De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis who rescued them with a 205-run stand for the fifth wicket on day five.
Though South Africa fell only eight runs short of what resulted in a thrilling draw, De Villiers’ 168-ball 103 bore all the hall marks of a truly great knock. In contrast Du
Plessis’ 309-ball 134 looked sheer labour with both knocks as varied as chalk and cheese.
Unfortunately for Dhoni’s team they could not take the last three wickets as South Africa finished on 450 for 7 and pulled off a great draw thanks to De Villiers and Du Plessis’ grit.
Durban fairy tale for Kallis
The next game at Durban saw a different script being penned as South Africa romped home to a ten-wicket win in what was the legendary Jacques Kallis’ last ever Test match.
Murali Vijay’s 226-ball 97 was proof of how hard India worked as they made 334 in the first essay.
Even Pujara’s 132-ball 70 bore similar hallmarks with Ajinkya Rahane playing his part too with a 121-ball 51.
In contrast South Africa piled on 500 in their first essay thanks to Kallis’ 316-ball 115 which enabled him to sign off with glory in his swansong outing.
Despite others like Alviro Petersen (62), Ab De Villiers (74) and Robin Peterson (61) playing out fine knocks, it was Kallis’s century which added to the emotional quotient.
Faced with a daunting deficit in the second essay India wilted and if it were not for Rahane’s vigilant 96 they would have folded up for less than the 223 they managed.
As Smith hit home the winning runs early on day five, South Africa chased down the 58-run target without losing a wicket meaning the series had been won, with Kallis walking away into a fairy tale sunset.
Dhawan scripts a master class!
Of course last but not the least, that memorable World Cup 2015 group game at Melbourne which saw India win when it really mattered cannot be forgotten.
Shikhar Dhawan looked every bit the Michelangelo at work during his 137, even as Kohli (46) and Rahane (79) played excellent support cast roles.
Dhawan’s knock was even better than that Cardiff hundred thanks to the sheer enormity of the situation as it allowed India cross 300 once again.
South Africa quite predictably lived up to their chokers tag as they wilted under pressure later and were all out for 177 thus losing by 130 runs.
Though Du Plessis did try his level best with a 71-ball 55, De Villiers’ (30) run-out by Dhoni proved to be the game turner.