Mumbai ODI Preview: Dhoni will look to choke SA with spin and reverse swing

The fifth and final one-dayer on Sunday is expected to fall in the same pattern. The visitors may breathe easier under the floodlights in Sunday’s one-dayer, but high humidity at night will play tricks on batsmen’s mind in a chase.

Aware of the nature of wickets at this time of the year, India’s decision to entangle the visiting batsmen on slow, turning tracks paid off.   -  The Hindu

Bowlers provided M.S. Dhoni the winning hand in two out of four matches. Both wins by the home team came while defending as spin and reverse swing choked the South African run chase in the second and fourth One-Day Internationals. Going into the decider under the Wankhede stadium floodlights, this aspect will be at the back of the mind in both dressing rooms.

Aware of the nature of wickets at this time of the year, India’s decision to entangle the visiting batsmen on slow, turning tracks paid off. A combined effort from the trio, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, left-arm spinner Axar Patel (five wickets each in three games played), leg-spinner Amit Mishra (four wickets in four) resulted in constant pressure on the pair at the crease.

Harbhajan used his experience to tie down batsmen with tight line and tease them with flight. Axar was not overawed by South African reputations and troubled right-handers, including A.B. de Villiers, with the delivery fizzing away, hastening off the pitch. Mishra tormented South Africans with turn and denied them the width to launch into strokes.

The fifth and final one-dayer on Sunday is expected to fall in the same pattern. Part-time off-spinner Akhil Herwadkar bagged a career-best six wickets in the last First-Class match at the Wankhede in a Ranji tie in daylight. The visitors may breathe easier under the floodlights in Sunday’s one-dayer, but high humidity at night will play tricks on batsmen’s mind in a chase.

South African skipper De Villiers (tons at Kanpur and Chennai) demonstrated adaptability and range of strokes in this series, standing tall at the crease amidst the sweat, dust and toil. He is a genuine leader of this pack, where opener Quinton de Kock realised the value of patience in Indian conditions and Faf du Plessis made quick runs before giving his wickets away.

South Africans can handle pace but, reverse swing is giving them more headaches than expected. Bhuvneshwar Kumar got India the breakthroughs, preying on anxiety in the closing overs (highest wicket-taker with six from four games) to make up for a quiet start. Mohit Sharma’s utility as a seamer (four wickets, three games) helped spinners dominate impatient batsmen.

India lost the toss at Kanpur and Rajkot, then ended up losing the way in the chase as well, so at 2-2 approaching the Sunday decider there are more questions about batting than solutions Dhoni expected when he shuffled the order. The captain’s explained his experiments as a way to test top order batsmen under pressure at number six and seven.

He set an example in the second match with 92 not out batting at number five, building small partnerships with bowlers Axar, Bhuvneshwar and Harbhajan. Suresh Raina did not fire under additional responsibility at number six, nor could Ajinkya Rahane push up the scoring in slog overs, with five fielders in the deep under the new rule in force this series.

The Indian captain would have solved the puzzle of chasing in closing overs by now. With the experience of four matches under the extra fielder on the ropes, there is no better stage than the fifth ODI at Wankhede to create a path of his own. Virat Kohli, Raina or Rahane as partner will be perfect.

South African attack is weaker without injured pacer Morne Morkel and questions over off-spinner JP Duminy’s fitness persist. Replacements Chris Morris and Aaron Phangsio cannot be expect to get cracking straightaway, though the former is aware of local conditions due to IPL stints. On second thoughts, Dhoni would prefer to defend, leaving the spinners and Bhuvneshwar to do their stuff.

Squads:

India: MS Dhoni (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, , Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Amit Mishra, Sutart Binny, Ambati Rayudu, Gurkeerat Singh Mann,

South Africa: A.B. de Villiers (captain), Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Rilee Rossow, Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso, Khaya Zondo.