Month and a half after Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli walked out for the toss at Newlands, Cape Town for the first Test match, India’s long tour of South Africa will come to close at the same venue as the two teams square off against each other for the final time.
Every bilateral engagement on this tour was expected to be tightly fought, but, while the contest was even for most of the Test series, this is the first time on this tour we actually have a deciding game. The Test series was decided by the second match with India winning a consolation game at the Wanderers. The ODI series was a walk in the park for Virat Kohli’s men. But the T20Is, the format where the gaps between the two teams has unsurprisingly been the most minimal, have seen a closer battle.
After India’s 28-run win at the Wanderers, South Africa bounced back with a comfortable six-wicket at Centurion - and after 11 matches, with the overall score 7-4 in favour of India, we will have the chance to witness which of these two teams can deliver when it’s a must-win for both sides.
All said and done, Kohli would be eyeing a perfect end to what has been a thoroughly roller-coaster tour when they take on a depleted but not completely deflated home side, led by JP Duminy.
There is a case to be made that South Africa need the win more than the visitors do after the impressive win for India under near-unplayable conditions in the third Test and the domination in the ODIs. By all accounts, this has already proved to be a memorable tour for Team India. But, knowing the attitude Kohli brings to this side, he’ll be raring to reassert his team’s dominance and sign off with a second trophy in the Rainbow Nation.
Having suffered a minor setback in the previous game, India will look to recover and close out this eight-week long tour with a series’ win.
India have never played T20 cricket at Newlands. This will be their first such outing, while South Africa have a less than impressive record at this venue. They have played 8 T20Is, and lost 5 of them. The two wins came in the 2007 World T20 and as such the hosts have only ever won a singular bilateral T20I game (against England in 2016) at Cape Town.
Buoyant South Africa
It doesn’t necessarily give the visitors an advantage. Through this limited-overs’ leg, South Africa have shown that they are more comfortable in the T20 setting, having won the rain-truncated Pink ODI as well as coming close while chasing 204 in the first match of this series, both at Wanderers.
Victory in the previous game will also be a reason for buoyancy in the Proteas’ dressing room. Stand-in skipper Duminy was adamant that they had well-set plans for Indian batsmen and bowlers since the start of this series but just needed proper execution as was showcased at Supersport Park.
It was seen in how the hosts made pointed changes in their bowling plans, and then took the attack to India’s bowlers. Duminy had named an unchanged eleven in the previous game, and it remains to be seen if they will bother breaking away from this consistency in the series-decider. Jon-Jon Smuts hasn’t come good yet despite his big-hitting prowess, while David Miller’s poor form has spilled over from the ODIs.
He was persisted with throughout that series, so there is no reason to doubt that the Proteas’ team management will back him to come good at a crucial juncture.
India’s selection headaches
Jasprit Bumrah’s abdominal strain had forced India to make a change in the second T20I, but they will consider a couple spots for this finale.
Bumrah’s fitness still remains a question mark, while it’s unclear if Kuldeep Yadav has recovered from the hand injury that’s seen him miss the first two games of this series.
Will the team management risk playing the duo given the shortened time-frame of this match? The fact that there is a two-week gap before the tri-series begins in Sri Lanka might coerce them into this gamble.
The bowling combination is the other concern. India have shown a propensity to field a left-arm pacer in this format, but Jaydev Unadkat has proven expensive so far.
He has picked up two wickets for 75 runs at an economy of 9.78. Yuzvendra Chahal has also been hammered (one wicket for 103 runs in 8 overs at economy 12.87) and Heinrich Klaasen eager to face him once again.
Given the scenario, Kohli might just be inspired to change the look and shape of his bowling attack.
If Bumrah does play, Unadkat is likely to make way for him. Shardul Thakuar used clever change of pace at Centurion and picked 1/31 in his four-over spell.
The Newlands pitch had played slow during the ODI series, and citing the example of Supersport Park, there is every reason to expect another wicket on the slower side, if not dual-paced altogether.
With Chahal’s confidence likely taken a hit, Yadav could find himself in reckoning for this all-important game. Further, given South Africa’s frailty against change of pace, India might even be tempted to consider Axar Patel, thus increasing the onus on Hardik Pandya as the third-choice pacer.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: JP Duminy (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Junior Dala, Reeza Hendricks, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), David Miller, Chris Morris, Dane Paterson, Aaron Phangiso, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Jon-Jon Smuts.
Match starts at: 9.30 pm IST.
With PTI inputs
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.