Durban-born Khaya Zondo is expected to make his Proteas debut on Thursday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will start their six-match ODI series against India in Durban without AB de Villiers, with the experienced batsman sitting out the first three matches with a finger injury sustained during the preceding Test series.

In his place, Durban-born batsman Khaya Zondo is expected to make his debut. The 27-year-old Zondo has been a rock in the Dolphins middle order coming in at number five. In 113 List A matches, Zondo has piled on 2809 runs at a strike-rate of 74 and an average of 32. Since making his List A debut in 2007, Zondo has played 113 matches scoring 17 50s and two centuries. 

The hosts won the Test series 2-1, but India's victory in Johannesburg on a Wanderers pitch that was rated as poor, will give them plenty of confidence in the 50-over format. De Villiers suffered an injury to his right index finger in the Test and needs two weeks to recover, with the fourth ODI in Johannesburg the likely comeback date.

After an enthralling three matches in the Test arena, the ODI series promises to be an exciting well-matched contest between the world's best two sides. South Africa are currently ranked as the best 50-over side in the ODI Team Rankings, but they are just one point ahead of second-placed India. 

To retain the top spot, South Africa will have to draw the series, while India can top the ODI table if they win the series by a scoreline of 4-2 or better. However, India could also lose ground on an in-form England in third place if South Africa win the series by 5-1 or better. 

With no de Villiers to call on, the hosts will need Hashim Amla to get into the groove at the top of the order. In tricky conditions De Villiers top-scored in the Test series for South Africa with 211 runs and his dynamic hitting will be missed for the first three ODIs. Amla is a reliable run-scorer in the 50-over format and scored 85 opening the batting against Bangladesh in his last match on 18 October.  

Virat Kohl, the India captain, led his side on the field and in the run-scoring in the Test series. Kohli scored 286 runs in six innings – 75 more than any other player – at an average of 47.66, with his 153 at Centurion one of his finest innings. The 29-year-old is in wonderful form and he is arguably even better in the white-ball format, with 32 centuries and an average of 55.74 in 202 matches so far. If India are to prevail in the series, Kohli is likely to have been a big part of it.

Kingsmead was good to South Africa in their ODI there exactly a year ago. South Africa put on 307/6 from their 50-overs in a day/night game against Sri Lanka, with Faf du Plessis and David Miller scoring centuries. The visitors were then bowled out for just 186. India, meanwhile, have lost six and had no result in the other of their seven ODIs in Durban.

However, the last Test match at the venue saw 11 of 15 sessions washed out due to persistent heavy rain. There could be problems with the weather on Thursday too, with scattered showers forecast, although breezy conditions could prevent any long delays.

The squads for the ODI Series are:

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo.  

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Shardul Thakur.   

African News Agency (ANA)

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