Cardiff: Drawn in what is being dubbed as the Group of Death, India will look to carry forward the form they exhibited in the tournament's warm-up games as they lock horns with South Africa in the Champions Trophy opener, which will be their first match outside the sub-continent in 15 months.
     
Teams eager to make a head start

With every game a virtual shootout, both the former winners will be eager to make a head start in the tournament which is being held for the last time.

Indian squad for 2013 Champions Trophy
     
As World Cup champions, India will have more than reputation to defend in the 50-over format contest. They have not played a limited over international outside the sub-continent in the last 15 months but the two big wins in their practice matches against Sri Lanka in Birmingham and Australia in Cardiff will give the Indian team management a fair idea of the conditions to confront.
     
India have good record against South Africa

Although history never counts in international cricket, India have a good record against South Africa in the Champions Trophy. India lead 2-0 in head-to-head having won by 95 runs at Nairobi's Gymkhana ground on October 13, 2000 and by 10 runs at Colombo's Premadasa Stadium on September 25, 2002.

Schedule Of ICC Champions Trophy 2013
     
With two out of the four battle-hardened teams qualifying for the semifinals, all matches in group B are expected to be closely-fought affairs.

Pakistan defeated South Africa in warm up game      
     
South Africa also arrive with a lot of reputation to protect. They are the world's No. 1 Test team but their ODI fortunes have been scratchy and it showed during the one-off warm-up game they played against a talented Pakistani attack on Monday.
     
Champions Trophy a test for junior players: MSD

When Mahendra Singh Dhoni stepped out of Indian shores he said this Champions Trophy will be a test for the team's junior boys. While a few players automatically select themselves, Dhoni indicated there were berths up for grabs. So far, one man has guaranteed himself a slot in the playing XI and that is Dinesh Karthik.
     
Karthik may bat up in order

With back-to-back hundreds under pressure against Lanka and Australia, Karthik is a virtual certainty but his batting position is a matter of conjecture. Dhoni is reluctant to play him as an opener, but it is almost certain that Karthik will gain a small promotion from his customary No. 6 position.
     
Murali Vijay-Shikhar Dhawan likely to open innings


It is unlikely that India will 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 'Test' experience and thus the capability of playing long innings, a must to give the middle-order the bandwidth to free their arms in the middle and closing stages of the innings. Holding wickets at the top will be vital.
     
India to opt for five specialist bowlers

Given the conditions at the Swalec Stadium here, India will surely opt for five specialist bowlers. That's been Dhoni's time-tested formula and with Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma both making an impression against Australia, the pair should make the cut. Bhuvneshwar Kumar's ability to bat and also move the new ball both ways should complete the three-man pace attack. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja should be the two spinners.
     
Squads (from):
     
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav
     
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
     
Match starts at 3 pm (IST).

(JPN/Agencies)

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