After being completely by India’s wrist spinners for three straight games, South Africa found a way to win in the fourth ODI. In Johannesburg’s summer rain, the hosts had a friend in need. That coupled with an overzealous approach to a shortened chase and India’s indisciplined fielding put an end to the tourists’ four-match winning streak. Now the action for the fifth ODI will be shifting to Port Elizabeth for another do-or-die game for the hosts.
But it is still 3-1 in India’s favor and that is the reason for Virat Kohli to talk up his team’s confidence levels. However, the game at the Wanderers showcased some of the weak points of the men in blue like one some days India’s middle-order can crumble under pressure despite a good foundation laid by the top order batsmen. Players like Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni are still finding a way around their weak links – read power-hitting – to play the roles assigned to them.
On the contrary, South Africa has received a welcome blow from their own middle-order. AB de Villiers tested Yuzvendra Chahal’s abilities to toss the bowl up and planted seeds of doubts in the leggie’s mind. Heinrich Klaasen picked his scoring areas methodically. De Villiers-Miller-Klaasen even launched an attack against Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal is that India no longer expects easy access to the spoils as the earlier games may have promised them.
If Aiden Markram’s men manage to win the fifth ODI in Port Elizabeth and push the series into Game 6, they’ll have majorly transferred the pressure. If not, then they’ll have to contend with the heartbreak of a series loss on Valentine’s eve.
Pitch and Weather conditions
It was overcast and windy conditions ahead of the match while it is expected to be cloudy with rain forecast for the morning of match day. Port Elizabeth’s pitch has been known to be hard for the batsmen to find their ground. The last two first-innings totals scored in ODIs are 181 and 167. In the two games played in the domestic ODI cup this season, Imran Tahir has grabbed a fifer and left-arm orthodox spinner JJ Smuts was among the pick of the bowlers. The pitch is famous for playing slow and so India’s wrist spinners could once again be seen wreaking havoc in the Proteas dressing room
Some stats to look out for:
- India has lost all their five ODIs at Port Elizabeth – four against South Africa and one against Kenya. At no other venue have they played more than two ODIs without winning at least one.
- MS Dhoni needs 46 more runs to become the 12th player to reach 10,000 runs in ODIs. He will be the fourth from India to reach the landmark after Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid.
- The most wickets taken by spinners for India in a bilateral series is 27 in the six-match series against England at home in 2006. Yuzuvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have taken 12 wickets each so far from the first four ODIs.
- Virat Kohli needs 62 more runs to go past Kevin Pietersen’s tally of 454 runs (six innings) to become the leading run-scorer in a bilateral series on the South African soil.
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Looking at the current scenario, Team India have Virat Kohli (393 at 196.50) and Dhawan (271 at 90.33) in one of the darkest shades of a purple patch of their career. However, Rohit Sharma, the other batsmen are going through horror tour to South Africa. While a contribution from the vice-captain and one of India’s serial big-hitter is due, India will also cast thoughtful glances at the middle-order, its composition and how best to get it to work in a way that can complement the heavy artillery at the top.
Kedar Jadhav’s absence did hurt the hosts in Johannesburg, leaving them with exactly five bowling options. Shreyas Iyer has bowled leg breaks in the nets and deserves more than one odd chance in the eleven. But if India believes the track will turn, they could throw in spinning all-rounder Axar Patel to the line-up at the cost of forcing every batsman to take up additional responsibility. Meanwhile, the loss at the Wanderers will not allow India to rest Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah just yet, with the former appearing to operating on fumes at the fag end of a physically draining tour.
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While the South Africans have identified the sweep and other technique to tackle the Indian wrist-spin duo, Ab de Villiers was also seen practicing slog and reverse sweeps in the net sessions. It’ll be his role to put pressure on Kuldeep and Chahal early on. The hosts can afford to make one conditions-enforced change here and surrender either Lungi Ngidi or Andile Phehlukwayo for a spinner. Whether that spinner is Imran Tahir or the in-form Tabraiz Shamsi remains to be seen.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer/Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram (c), JP Duminy, AB de Villiers, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi/Imran Tahir.