Inconsistent batting worry India ahead of finals
The Indians have never won a limited-over series in South Africa and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his young brave hearts will leave no stone unturned to achieve the feat at the SuperSport Park here.
But it won`t be easy for the visitors as with their 48-run win via Duckworth and Lewis method in the fourth ODI, South Africa have showed that they will not allow the series slip from their hand without a fight.
Down 1-2 after back-to-back defeats in Johannesburg and Durban, the Proteas made a strong comeback in Port Elizabeth last night to level the series and take it to the decider.
But going into the match, India would be a worried lot as their middle-order failed yet again in the series.
Young Virat Kohli has been the only bright spot in the series for India in an otherwise out-of-form batting line-up, which has been hit hard by injuries to key players like Sachin Tendulkar and opening duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
At the St George`s Park yesterday, Kohli scored his second half century of the series but his 92-ball unbeaten 87 runs knock was not enough to win the fourth ODI for India.
The batting has come a cropper in the series so far with skipper Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina failing to consolidate on the starts they got.
What will be worrying Dhoni the most is the opening slot as Rohit Sharma`s woeful run continues at the top while Parthiv Patel, who replaced an out-of-touch Murali Vijay in the last match, failing to make any impact.
With World Cup round the corner, India would not only want to win the series here but also be keen to see the youngsters, who have done well in the recent past, show some character on the pacy South Africa pitches before the game`s show-piece event, which stars next month.
In the second match, too, it was some superb bowling by the Indians that helped them defend a low total of 190.
The likes of Yuvraj and Raina would need to take some responsibility tomorrow to down the ever-fighting Proteas while it is also high time for Dhoni himself to produce something valuable from his bat.
Dhoni himself conceded that the middle-order need to fire after the visitors failed to secure a historic series-win in the fourth ODI.
"It`s (Kohli`s batting) a big positive for us. It`s good for us at number three. He has carried through the innings but the other batsmen also need to chip in. The middle-order has not clicked," Dhoni said.
"It (final match) will be interesting. The team that handles pressure better will win," he added.
On the bowling front, the Indians so far did a decent job in the series. But the performance of his frontline bowlers in the last match would be worrying Dhoni ahead of the decider.
In the last match, except for Ashish Nehra no other frontline bowler has managed a wicket while part-time spinner Yuvraj got three prized scalps.
The pace duo of Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel and spinner Harbjhajan Singh turned out to be a tad too expensive and Dhoni would need the trio to deliver in tomorrow`s encounter.
However, the Indian skipper can take heart from the part-timers performance with Yuvrj, Raina, Rohit Sharma and Yusuf Pathan all coming good in the middle-overs yesterday.
South Africa, on the other hand, will be high on confidence after their series-leveling win in Port Elizabeth and would do whatever it takes to prevent India from creating a first on the African soil.
The Proteas may be missing the required balance in the side in the absence of veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis, but one or the other have chipped in with runs for the home team when they needed most.
If it was skipper Graeme Smith in the first two matches, JP Duminy delivered the goods for South Africa in the next two.
The left-handed Duminy scored fifties in consecutive matches to rescue South African innings in both the third as well as fourth ODIs.
His crucial 71-run unbeaten knock yesterday turned out to be the match-winner for South Africa. Duminy, who batted till the last, shared two crucial partnerships with Johan Botha (44) and Robin Petersen (31) to rescue South Africa from a precarious situation.
The South African bowling, meanwhile, has been the talking point of the series with both Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tostsobe igniting fire upfront while Botha stemming the run flow in the middle overs.
In Peterson, who impressed with both bat and ball yesterday, South Africa have found an utility player.
All in all a cracker is in the offing in the final match of the series, which has seen some outstanding competitive cricket from both the sides.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/keeper), Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, S Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, R Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Parthiv Patel.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.