Third T20: India faces resurgent South Africa in tour finale

A victory in the Twenty20 series decider in Cape Town on Saturday will ensure a successful redemption for Virat Kohli and Co. in the limited-overs leg of the eight-week long tour.

Yuzvendra Chahal (centre) was profligate during the second Twenty20 in Pretoria; his spin peer Kuldeep Yadav may be given a go in the series decider.   -  AFP

India would be eyeing a perfect end to what has been a roller-coaster tour when it takes on a depleted but not completely deflated South Africa in the decisive third Twenty20 International here on Saturday. 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.

The three-match series is level at 1-1. India won the first T20I in Johannesburg by 28 runs; the Proteas bounced back in Centurion with a six-wicket win.

India has never played T20 cricket at Newlands. This will be its first such outing, while South Africa has a less than impressive record here. It has played eight T20Is, and lost five of them here.

Potent in T20s

The two wins came in the 2007 World T20 and as such the host has only ever won a singular bilateral T20I game (against England in 2016) at Cape Town.

It doesn’t necessarily give the visitor an advantage. Through this limited-overs’ leg, South Africa has shown that it is 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 JP Duminy was adamant that it 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 host made pointed changes in its bowling plans, and then took the attack to India’s bowlers.

Fitness concerns

Duminy had named an unchanged XI in the previous game, and it remains to be seen if it 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.

Jasprit Bumrah’s abdominal strain had forced India to make a change, but it will consider a couple spots for this finale. Bumrah’s fitness still remains a question mark. Will the team management risk playing him 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 it into this gamble.

The bowling combination is the other concern. India has 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.

Yadav in contention

Given the scenario, Virat 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 Thakur used clever change of pace at Centurion and picked 1 for 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.

Arguably, Chahal bowls a more consistent line than Kuldeep Yadav and this explains latter’s omission from the first two games.

However, with Chahal’s confidence taking 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’s tour had gained momentum with victory in the Wanderers’ Test and then it carried it through the ODI series, romping home with a 5-1 margin. The team management usually clubs all formats together and is celebrating ascendancy over South Africa since the last week of January. As such, it will be keen to fly out with an additional trophy to show for this run of form.

Teams (from)
  • India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, M. S. Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Jaydev Unadkat, Shardul Thakur.
  • South Africa: JP Duminy (c), 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.