India eye series edge at Rajkot
Rajkot: Having managed to level the series, a determined India will be eager to produce an improved performance when they take on South Africa in the third One Day International at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here on Sunday.
The hosts were propped up by a fighting unbeaten 92 by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a half century from Ajinkya Rahane during the second ODI while the rest of the batting line-up fluffed their lines. The bowlers then produced a superlative performance to successfully defend the modest total of 247/9 and carve out a 22-run victory.
Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and left-arm spinner Axar Patel were in superb form at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore, claiming three wickets each. Patel’s figures of 3/39 were the best of his career.
The Proteas had earlier taken the opening ODI of the five-match series by five runs in Kanpur. The Indian victory in Indore came after three consecutive defeats to the visitors as they had lost both the matches in the Twenty20 International (T20I) series as well.
The Indian top order has been inconsistent so far, specially Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. The last time Kohli got a half century was during India’s opening match of the 2015 World Cup on February 15. The Delhi batsman, who has been pushed down to the No.4 spot, will be eager to get some runs under his belt.
Rahane has been the most consistent Indian batsman so far in this series as he has two back to back half centuries to his name. Opener Rohit Sharma did well in the series opener, scoring 150 to give the Indian chase a promising start and the Mumbai lad will be hoping for another big innings on Sunday on a pitch which is expected to favour the batsmen.
Dhoni’s return to form will be another morale booster for the Indians.
Harbhajan Singh had replaced fellow off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the last match. The Punjab spinner had bowled well after coming on as the first change bowler, checking the flow of runs while picking up two wickets and may expect to retain his place.
Harbhajan and Patel are expected to spearhead the spin attack and the duo will hope for a hatful of wickets given the favourable conditions here.
The South Africans on the other hand, will look to pick up the pieces. Although they had started the series on a superb note, there were glimpses of their infamous tendency to choke in crunch situations in the inability to overhaul the modest 248-run target in Kanpur.
The poor form of top order batsman David Miller is a cause for concern and the South Africans may consider giving the young Khaya Zondo a chance. The visitors also need to address their weakness against spin bowling.
The experienced Hashim Amla has done well so far and could be difficult to dislodge once he gets his eye in. The dangerous AB de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, Faf du Plesis and Quinton de Kock can also be a handful for any bowling attack on their day.
The South African pace attack has not been at its best on the Indian tracks, but the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel cannot be taken lightly. Young fast bowler Kasigo Rabada has raw pace and has shown that he is a tricky customer in the earlier matches. Imran Tahir and Jean-Paul Duminy will comprise the Protea’s spin attack.
Sunday’s match will be a crucial one as it will give the victor the upper hand and a much needed psychological edge ahead of the penultimate game of the series in Chennai.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harbhajan Singh, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), J.P. Duminy, David Miller/Khaya Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir.