India were comprehensively outplayed with both bat and ball as South Africa, fresh from their Test series triumph, continued the momentum with an easy 31 run victory, in the first ODI in Paarl on Wednesday.
Virat Kohli played in his first ODI as a specialist batter for India after seven years with K L Rahul taking over the captaincy for the three game ODI series.
Electing to bat, South Africa recovered after a few early wickets to post a healthy 296/4 in their 50 overs.
India, despite fielding five specialist bowlers including two frontline spinners, must be disappointed at their showing as they were unable to make a breakthrough in the middle overs.
Temba Bavuma (110) and Rassie van der Dussen (129) batted for more than 30 overs as they put on 204 runs for the fourth wicket.
Senior spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, playing his first ODI in more than four years, took 1/53 in 10 overs while comeback man Yuzvendra Chahal went wicketless in his 10 overs, as both tweakers were unable to force a breakthrough in the middle overs.
In contrast, the South African spin troika of Aiden Markram, Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj fared much better and claimed four wickets for 124 runs in a total of 26 overs bowled between them.
All-rounder Shardul Thakur struggled with the ball, giving away 72 runs in his 10 overs, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar was also expensive with 64 runs conceded from his 10 overs. Jasprit Bumrah took 2/48.
With the bat, senior pros Shikhar Dhawan (79) and Virat Kohli (51) brought India back on track courtesy of their 92-run stand for the second wicket after Rahul departed early.
But their dismissals within the space of a few overs saw India lose the way. Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer failed to convert their starts while debutant Venkatesh Iyer made just 2.
Though Shardul made a late dash with an unbeaten 50 from 43 balls, India never really challenged in the run chase as South Africa claimed an easy victory to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
India must be desperate to halt South Africa's winning ways as another loss could see them surrender the ODI series.
It remains to be seen if Captain Rahul and Coach Rahul Dravid will continue with all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, who was not used with the ball in the opening ODI, or strengthen their batting by bringing in Suryakumar Yadav.
Another option for India could be to try out the exciting Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has been in great form with the bat as the opener while Rahul drops down to No 4 or No 5 to bolster the middle order.
Ishan Kishan is also a handy option if India is looking at someone to take on the bowlers in the Powerplay.
Among the bowlers, India could bring in someone like Deepak Chahar, who has improved vastly in the last couple of years, and is also quite capable with the bat.
Mohammed Siraj, if fully fit, could also get a look in at the expense of Bhuvneshwar, who struggled in the first game.
Probable XI K L Rahul (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant/Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur/Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal.
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