India A and South Africa A are set to play an unofficial two test match series, with the first game getting underway on Monday in Thiruvanthapuram.
This follows the heavily rain affected five match ODI series between the two teams, with India A won easily by four matches to one. The series serves as an hors d’oeuvre for the main dish when the senior sides from the two countries meet next month.
Both teams selected for these two matches contain a mix of youth and experience.
From the Indian perspective, two men who will be given their chance to shine in the first match are Kanataka all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham and wicket-keeper KS Bharat. Gowtham has already caught the eye with a string of impressive performances on the “A” tour of the West Indies. Meanwhile, Bharat will be looking to press his claims to be considered the back-up to Risbabh Pant, now established as India’s number one keeper in all forms of the game, with MS Dhoni continued absence due to his military commitments.
Bharat’s main rival for that spot, the veteran Wriddiham Saha will captain the side for the second match, whilst Shubman Gill will be hoping to burnish his own test ambitions by skippering the team in the first game.
Two other men who will be watched with interest are openers Priyank Panchal and Abhimaya Easwaran, although Indian fans will have to wait until the second match to see the both of them in action. Both men have scored heavily in recent seasons for Gujurat and Bengal respectively, and Easwaran’s performance, in particular, will be closely monitored, after his man-of-the-match innings of 153 for India A in the final of the Duleep Trophy. With KL Rahul out of form with the bat recently, there could be a potential opening in the test team coming up.
The South African side too contains some familiar names and some newcomers. Captain Aiden Markram is already experienced at test level; tipped as a future skipper of the Proteas’ senior side, he is playing in these conditions to get to know Indian conditions in advance of the arrival of the main touring party. Meanwhile, fast bowler Lungu Ngidi is another man who can expect to feature next month, provided that he can show that he is fully recovered from the hamstring injury that limited his participation in the World Cup in June.