The second of five ODI gets underway at Indore’s Holkar Cricket Stadium tomorrow, with India licking their wounds after South Africa narrowly pipped them in Kanpur on Sunday. South Africa, buoyed by their captain AB de Villiers’ ballistic century and impressive bowling from Imran Tahir and rookie Kagiso Rabada at the death, enter the match brimming with confidence. The manner of their thrilling five-run victory left De Villiers and Rabada exhilarated and exhausted, coming as it did from an almost hopeless scenario.
India should have won the first ODI, being well placed at 269/3 after 46 overs and needing 35 runs from 24 balls, with opener Rohit Sharma batting on 150 and proven finisher MS Dhoni on 9 from 16. They lost it from there, spectacularly, ending up five runs short to give South Africa a 1-0 lead in the series. This loss, after consecutive defeats in the Twenty20 games, puts Dhoni’s India under the pump to prevent South Africa adding another win on Wednesday.
For India, after three defeats in the series, the concern is a lack of all-round success. Too few players are standing up, games are not being closed out, and the bowling is decidedly shoddy bar the in-form R Ashwin who may not play the next match after injuring himself in Kanpur. Dhoni took a portion of the blame on Sunday, considering his experience and success as a finisher in ODI cricket, after India failed to get 11 off the final over bowled by 20-year-old Rabada. And while his powers as a batsman appear on the wane, the blame cannot entirely be pointed at the Indian skipper.
Losing almost six overs from Ashwin hurt India, but conceding 86 runs in the last six overs was very tardy from the pace bowlers. Rohit’s eye-catching fluency had so nearly finished the job, but his dismissal to Tahir in the 47th over was followed by that of Suresh Raina’s two deliveries later, undoing the chase. Dhoni and Stuart Binny – who earlier conceded 21 in one over at the death – failed to find the boundary in the last over.
Dhoni has all but committed to batting Ajinkya Rahane at No 3 instead of Virat Kohli, arguing that the Mumbai batsman is best suited to playing higher up, but Rahane’s inability to provide India the kick they needed from him in Kanpur has cast doubts over his place at one-drop. Popular opinion is that Kohli – who looked out of sorts during his 18-ball innings on Sunday – is the team’s best batsman and should get to face more deliveries. Whether it happens remains to be seen, with Dhoni indicating Rahane will remain at No 3 for Wednesday’s ODI.
Should Ashwin not recover from his side strain, India will most likely include one of Axar Patel or Harbhajan Singh, the latter added to the squad on Sunday as cover for Ashwin. Should Binny be dropped, there could be a debut for young Gurkeerat Singh, the Punjab allrounder whose strong List A form earned him a call-up to the squad. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s place is in danger after he went wicketless for 67 runs in his ten overs and Mohit Sharma could be his replacement.
South Africa have little reason to tinker with a winning unit. The way De Villiers clubbed his way to a century in 73 balls left India cross-eyed, and later Tahir’s excellence at the death really lifted South Africa. How much young Rabada has gained from that last over is palpable, as evident by the way he was mobbed by his team-mates. Rabada getting the nod over Kyle Abbott and Chris Morris indicates how highly he is rated, and getting more out of young talent such as him on a long tour will be beneficial for South Africa.
India and South Africa have never played against each other at the Holkar Stadium, which has hosted just three ODIs. The last time an ODI was played here was in December 2011, when Virender Sehwag’s 219 set up a 153-run win over West Indies. In three ODIs here, India are unbeaten.
Will that run continue?
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Stuart Binny/Gurkeerat Singh, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 R Ashwin/Axar Patel/Harbhajan Singh, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
South Africa: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Farhaan Behardien, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir