India's home season was supposed to begin in Dharamsala, but rain ensured it did not. Our preview for the first T20I, therefore, could serve just as well as a preview to the second one in Mohali.
If you're looking for the TL;DR version, here goes.
South Africa, looking to rebuild after a terrible ODI World Cup, have an entirely new-look squad - four of their players are uncapped in T20Is and two are yet to play any international cricket - led by a new captain, Quinton de Kock.
India, meanwhile, seem to be stepping away from their old, ODI-influenced T20I template, with their selections pointing towards a desire for increased batting depth. The wristspin twins, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, have as a result given way - temporarily at least - to a plethora of spin-bowling allrounders.
For both teams, the series gains extra significance with a T20 World Cup coming up in just over a year's time.
That World Cup will be played in Australia, and if any Indian ground can simulate Australian T20 conditions, it is Mohali. The resemblance isn't as much to do with the pitch, which is usually true and flat rather than fast and bouncy, as with the vast outfield, which gives bowlers a little more leeway and adds a bit more of a tactical dimension to matches, with sixes a slightly scarcer commodity than usual.
In the spotlight
Hardik Pandya has batted 61 times in 66 matches for Mumbai Indians, but only 24 times in 38 T20Is. How have India underutilised his hitting skills to this extent? The answer, perhaps, is that they have for far too long batted too conservatively at the start of their innings, and as a result not allowed him enough time in the middle. Will their new emphasis on batting depth also free up the top order to take more risks?
He didn't have the greatest of World Cups, and he's slipped away from the spotlight in the months since while the world has raved about Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer. It might surprise you to learn that Kagiso Rabada is younger than both of them. He'll want to begin this new international season, and this new era in South African cricket, with a bang, and remind the world that this other incredibly gifted young fast bowler is still around.
Who will partner Rohit Sharma at the top of the order for India - Shikhar Dhawan or KL Rahul? From their practice session on Tuesday, it appeared that Dhawan might win that race.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan/KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Manish Pandey/Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Washington Sundar/Rahul Chahar, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Navdeep Saini
Temba Bavuma, Anrich Nortje, and the two spin-bowling allrounders, Bjorn Fortuin and George Linde, are yet to make their T20I debuts. At least two of them might do so on Wednesday.
South Africa (probable): 1 Quinton de Kock (capt & wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 David Miller, 6 Andile Phehlukwayo, 7 Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Bjorn Fortuin/George Linde, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Junior Dala/Anrich Nortje, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi
Pitch and conditions
Mohali is expected to be warm and dry on Wednesday, with no rain forecast. The pitch usually produces evenly balanced T20 contests, with seven matches in the 2019 IPL season giving us an average first-innings total of 171, and the chasing team winning five times.
Stats and trivia
- Virat Kohli's average of 28.83 against South Africa is his second-poorest against any T20I opponent. He's done worse only against Ireland, against whom he's scored nine runs in two innings at 4.50.
- David Miller has scored 730 runs in 29 T20 matches in Mohali, at an average of 45.62 and a strike rate of 150.51. Only Shaun Marsh has scored more T20 runs at the venue.
"They're both good players in their own right. It's always going to be a good competition. They like being very positive in the way they play their cricket, and it could a great thing to watch."
Quinton de Kock on Kagiso Rabada v Virat Kohli
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo