The series has moved from the east of the country to the west but India’s situation remains the same: they have to win the next match to stay alive.
They’ve been buoyed by their biggest T20I win over South Africa on Tuesday, which could have been even bigger had their middle order not fallen away. Despite that, India will be pleased with the performance of their opening pair, who shared in their highest first-wicket stand against South Africa, and their attack, who challenged South Africa for the first time in the series.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in particular, has been outstanding up front, moving the ball both ways and causing problems for a struggling South African opening pair. They’ve managed stands of 22, 5 and 23 and will want to be able to get off to better starts as South Africa fine-tune their batting combination. Their middle-order batters have made up for what the top two have lacked but will be disappointed with their lack of fight, and especially the hold Yuzvendra Chahal had over them in Visakhapatnam, where India’s spinners had their first real say of the series. South Africa’s have yet to do the same.
On pitches that have been described as tricky for batting, the seam bowlers and their variations have been the biggest talking point, and wicket-taking has been dominated by India. Bhuvneshwar and Harshal Patel lead the bowling charts
followed by Chahal and Dwaine Pretorius. South Africa’s biggest name, Kagiso Rabada, has been used more in a containing role while Anrich Nortje is still finding his feet after a lengthy injury layoff. Both will want to have more of an impact before the end of the series,
An India batter is also atop the batting charts
. Ishan Kishan has scored the most runs so far followed by a rejuvenated Heinrich Klaasen, and both are perhaps unexpected heroes. This pair have the opportunity to make themselves indispensable for their teams in the immediate future, especially with the series on the line.
India WLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa LWWWW
His comeback since returning from a Kolpak deal has gone mostly under the radar but Wayne Parnell
has put in some quietly impressive performances as he makes a claim for a T20 World Cup spot. He opened the bowling in the second match and was South Africa’s second-most economical bowler with a return of 1 for 23 in four overs and batted for the first time in the third match, where he scored an unbeaten 18-ball 22. With South Africa’s combination accommodating two seam-bowling allrounders at the moment, and Dwaine Pretorius establishing himself as a top-order pinch-hitter, Parnell has an opportunity to make the lower-order finisher’s job his.
has got starts in every match but may not yet have done enough to keep his place when Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav return. In the first and second match, he was undone by Dwaine Pretorius’ slower ball and in the third, didn’t time his sweep well enough to clear Anrich Nortje. After the first match, Wasim Jaffer and Dale Steyn said Iyer needed to work on his attacking strokeplay
against pace, and the numbers agree. In this series, Iyer has scored 38 runs off 46 deliveries bowled by pace bowlers, including two fours and a six, and 52 runs off 27 balls bowled by spinners, including one four and six sixes. His strike rate against pace is 82.60 and more than double that against spin, 192.59.
India have used the same combination in all three matches so far, and it worked for them in the third match. They’re unlikely to tinker with a winning formula, which could mean a longer wait for Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh to make their debuts.
India (possible): 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt & wk), 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
Aiden Markram has left India after serving his seven-day quarantine after contracting Covid-19 on June 8. He will not have enough time to complete his return-to-play program before the end of the series. South Africa are also waiting on the fitness of Quinton de Kock
, who injured his wrist before the second match, but batted in the nets on Thursday. Given the low strike-rates of the opening pair, de Kock is likely to replace Reeza Hendricks if he’s fit.
South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock/Reeza Hendricks, 2 Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 David Miller, 5 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 6 Dwaine Pretorius, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi.
The pitch at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot is usually full of runs. India chased down 202 in the first T20I played at this venue, back in 2013
, while New Zealand defended 196 here in 2017
. India successfully chased 154 against Bangladesh in the most recent match here, in 2019
, reaching their target with more than four overs to spare. There could be some relief from the weather gods, with cooler temperatures on this side of the country and less humidity.
“We’re not expecting things to happen. We know we have to play well, and that’s what we did in the first two games. I don’t think you guys were thinking we were going to come here and win the series 5-0 just because all the big-name players aren’t here. That’s a good Indian team. I’d be foolish to change our approach after one loss.”
Temba Bavuma says South Africa were always expecting things to get tough