India take on South Africa in Champions Trophy opener today

Cardiff (Wales), June 6 (ANI): India will lock horns with South Africa in the ICC Champions Trophy opener here on Thursday.

World one-day champions India have not played an ODI outside the subcontinent in the last 15 months, but the two big wins in their practice matches against Sri Lanka and Australia, will give them confidence going into the encounter with the Proteas.

India have a good record against South Africa in the Champions Trophy. Head-to-head, India leads two nil against South Africa, winning in 2000 and 2002.

South Africa, the world number one Test side, also have a reputation to protect.

Their ODI form, however, has been scratchy and it showed during the warm-up game against Pakistan on Monday.

While a few players are automatic selections for the Indian squad, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has indicated that there may be few surprises. With back-to-back hundreds under pressure against Lanka and Australia in practice matches, wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik is a certainty, but in what position he will bat, is still open to question.

India is unlikely to disturb the opening combination of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. Dhoni has been insisting on this right-left duo ever since he flew out of India because both have the capability of playing long innings.

The talented Virat Kohli and Dhoni will provide solidity in the middle order.

Given the conditions in Cardiff, India is likely to go into the match with five specialist bowlers.

The pace trio is likely to be Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, while Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja should be the two spinners.

South Africa are sweating over Dale Steyn's fitness, and with Jacques Kallis not in the team, they will have to depend on opener Hashim Amla, middle order batsman J P Duminy and inspirational skipper A.B. De Villiers.

The match commences at 3 p.m. Indian Standard Time (IST). By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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