Impressive India can improve away record
Kohli's men should keep ageing South Africa up to their work
Sky Sports Cricket, 8.30am Friday
India lost just one of their 11 Test matches in 2017, setting them up nicely for one of the toughest assignments in cricket – a Test series in South Africa.
Only Australia and England have won Test series against the Proteas on their own patch in the last decade, although South Africa were thumped 3-0 on spin-friendly pitches in India in 2015.
There is a more familiar look to the South Africa squad with AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn returning for the first Test at Newlands but India’s young side are worth a bet to avoid defeat in the three-match series.
The Proteas’ line-up could include as many as five players aged 33 or older while the 32-year-old Vernon Philander was sidelined with a back injury from July to October last year.
India’s recent Test record owes much to a run of home series and soft away trips but they competed well on the 2014-15 tour of Australia, losing a four-match series 2-0, and are a more mature, dangerous side now.
Skipper Virat Kohli relishes this kind of challenge, scoring four centuries in that series in Australia and making 104 not out, 213, 243 and 50 in his last four innings against Sri Lanka in November and December.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were the top three runscorers in the two-Test series in South Africa in 2013-14 and opener Murali Vijay has four centuries in his last 12 innings.
India have arguably their best-ever pace attack, backed up by classy spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, and an ageing South Africa side will have to be at their best to win.
Home opener Dean Elgar lacks the box-office appeal of some of his teammates but he was a rock for South Africa in 2017, scoring five centuries in 21 Test innings.
Elgar made 199 and 113 in his last two home Tests against Bangladesh before an unbeaten 237 for Titans against Dolphins.
His most recent Test at Newlands produced scores of 129 and 55 against Sri Lanka last January and he could frustrate India in the first innings of the series.
India or draw double chance 2pts 6-4 bet365
D Elgar top South Africa first-innings runscorer
1pt 4-1 general