AB de Villiers © AFP
AB de Villiers’s destructive century played an important role in South Africa’s win in the 1st ODI © AFP

South Africa’s mantra on the tour of India 2015 is quite straightforward and easy to understand: do the hard work right from the beginning, start well in games and the series, and reap the benefits. They might have begun the tour with a win in controversial circumstances (thanks to Vineet Kulkarni), but they stamped authority in the second Twenty20 International (T20I) at Cuttack when South Africa shot India out for a paltry 92. When the One-Day International (ODI) series began, the South Africans once again started off well as they posted a target in excess of 300, and battled the tough conditions for bowling to steal a narrow five-run win. Live Cricket Scorecard: India vs South Africa 2015, 2nd ODI at Indore

It will be a no-brainer to say that South Africa will head into the second ODI as favourites. They have won three games on a trot against India in their backyard — something which India are unlikely to do when they travel. The South Africans have stuck to their plans, have executed them well and most importantly, have performed as a unit, unlike India, who have found one or two performers with the rest of the side struggling. READ: India’s likely XI for 2nd ODI vs South Africa

If South Africa sneak a win in the second ODI, their position in this 50-over contest will become as good as unassailable — they will then need only one more win to seal series win. For them to make this happen, it is imperative that they field their best playing XI, and by the look of things, South Africa does not need to make any change. They can go 2-0 up without making any change in their playing eleven. Nevertheless, let us take a look at the possible team composition:

Top-order: The opening pair of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla gives South Africa hopes of both, an aggressive as well as a strong start. Both de Kock and Amla can play strokes at will and also drop the anchor if needed. Both the opening batsmen got starts in the first ODI, which hints that they can chip in with big scores as well. The No. 3 batsman Faf du Plessis is in rich form, and this makes South African top-order dangerous than India’s.

Middle-order: Before the series, it looked like South Africa were over-dependent on AB de Villiers. But in just three games, South Africa have not only quashed that notion but have shown that they mean business. The middle-order gives no respite to the opposition, apart from de Villiers it consists of JP Duminy, and the ‘killer’ David Miller. It’s not the mere presence of these players, but their current form that makes South Africa more dangerous for the hosts. All these batsmen have been among the run-scorers, and even though Miller has been quiet of late, there will be no surprise if he turns up all guns blazing.

Lower-order: Farhaan Behardien has shown that he, like his team, has matured over the past few months. If there is someone who is doing the bulk of scoring, Behardien would not have any qualms in playing second fiddle. He can hit the big scores, but there still are doubts if he will be able to win matches on his own. Unfortunately, none of the South African tailenders in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada have any credibility with the bat.

South Africa’s likely XI: AB de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis,  David Miller, Jean-Paul Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)