Free Press Journal

India vs South Africa: India look for a series win, SA hope to continue momentum


Port Elizabeth: Knocked back in the previous match, India will look to crush a South African revival before it becomes a threat to their pursuit of a maiden ODI series triumph here when the two sides clash in the fifth ODI, tomorrow. The Men in Blue still have a two-match cushion in thesix-ODI series. They lead 3-1 after winning the first in Durban by six wickets, the second in Centurion by nine wicketsand the third in Cape Town by 124 runs.

The Proteas bounced back by winning the rain-affected andlightning-struck Pink ODI in Johannesburg by five wickets. India’s wrist-spinners versus South Africa’s battingline-up is still the key contest going ahead in this series.At Johannesburg, the dual rain intervention affected India’smomentum with both the bat and ball. More importantly, it reduced the target sufficientlythat, despite AB de Villiers’ relative early dismissal, thehome batsmen didn’t have much trouble getting past. The T20-mode of that second innings, coupled with thebest batting surface of the series, allowed David Miller andHeinrich Klaasen to attack the wrist spinners and take thegame away.

Of course, the dropped catch and bowling Miller off a noball didn’t help India’s cause either. Yet, a rain-truncatedinnings is hardly enough evidence that South Africa havelearnt how to contend with the wrist spin of Yuzvendra Chahaland Kuldeep Yadav. Additionally, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah werenot used to great effect as Virat Kohli chose to rely on thespinners, even when they were unable to respond to theProteas’ concentrated attack. In this light, India’s team selection will come intofocus in Port Elizabeth. There are still question-marks aboutthe fitness of Kedar Jadhav, who suffered a hamstring injuryin Cape Town and missed the previous game. Albeit a part-timer, in his absence, India lose areliable bowling alternative particularly if Hardik Pandyatakes some stick and cannot complete his quota of overs. Jadhav is adept at bowling slow spin and mixing it upwell with Chahal and Yadav.

India do not have many fall-backoptions in Jadhav’s absence — Rohit Sharma last bowled an ODIover at Perth in January 2016. Shreyas Iyer is known to practice leg break and hadbowled an over against Sri Lanka in his debut series. Neither of them provides a reliable option like Jadhavdoes. Kohli himself is the other contender, but he bowlsseam-up. In summation, Jadhav’s bowling is being missed more thanhis batting ability despite a troublesome middle-order and itindicates India’s team balance is still not optimal. Ajinkya Rahane has scored 11 and 8 since making acomeback 79 at no.4. Pandya’s forgettable tour with the bat(since the first Test in early January) continues, with scoresof 14 and 9 in his last two outings. MS Dhoni’s 42 not out (off 43 balls) was the only savinggrace for this shaky middle-order as India struggled to finishwell at Johannesburg.

The series’ score-line has conveniently hid the fact thatIndia have a top-heavy batting order, despite the poor form ofRohit Sharma, who has scored 40 runs in the first four ODIsand boasts a gradually sinking ODI average of 11.45 in 12matches on South African soil. Kohli (393 runs) and Shikhar Dhawan (271 runs) havescored nearly thrice the number of runs put together by theremaining batsmen (239) and it ought to be a cause of majorworry for the Indian think-tank. This fact will not go overlooked and South Africa will bekeen to exploit the Indian line-up’s frailty and dismiss Kohliand Dhawan cheaply to gain an early advantage. It remains to be seen what bowling combination the hostswill go in with.

On a hard and bouncy Wanderers’ wicket, they had dropped a full-time spinner altogether, relying solely on JP Duminy to do that job. St. George’s Park though has a history of aiding spinnersand in the last two ODIs played here, the Proteas’ spinnershave been in prominence. In January 2017, Imran Tahir took 3-26 against Sri Lanka. In October 2016, Tabraiz Shamsi picked up 3-36 againstAustralia while South Africa also picked a second spinner inAaron Phangiso who took 2-17. South Africa have lost 11 out of 32 matches played atthis ground. Six of those losses have come in the last decadeas Port Elizabeth hosts at least one ODI every home summer. India’s record here is nothing to write about either.

They have lost all 5 ODIs played here since 1992. Four of those defeats came against South Africa, whilethe Men in Blue even managed to lose to Kenya here during theone-day triangular as part of their 2001-02 tour. In fact, in five previous ODI outings in Port Elizabeth, India have never scored 200 runs here as 176 against SouthAfrica in October 2001 is their highest total yet. Once again on this trip, India will have to fight dubiouspast performances and erase a lop-sided record, only this timein a bid to carve out a fresh piece of history. Teams (from):

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

South Africa: Aiden Markram (capt), Hashim Amla, JPDuminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, TabraizShamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen(wk), AB de Villiers. Match starts at: 4:30 pm IST.