Centurion: A ruthless India has only complacency to guard against while a deflated South Africa would be fighting another battle of survival when the two sides clash in the series-deciding second T20I International, here tomorrow.
The Men in Blue won the first T20I at Johannesburg by 28 runs and a victory tomorrow will see them wrap up another series win on this tour.
A highly competitive 1-2 loss in the Tests, followed by a comprehensive 5-1 ODI triumph has made for quite a roller-coaster tour so far and the Indians would be aiming for a happy end to the long sojourn with a T20 victory.
The word from the Indian camp is that Virat Kohli will be fit in time for the game. The skipper had hobbled off in later stages of the previous game on Sunday with a left hip problem. The team management had deemed the issue as “nothing serious”, and as such, he is expected to walk out at toss time on tomorrow.
Kohli had suffered a slight knee issue while fielding in the first ODI at Durban as well, but he brushed it off to score a fine hundred thereafter. Even so, another injury scare only underlines his exhaustive workload.
Wrapping up the series here might also enable Kohli to take time off and sit out the final T20I in Cape Town, keeping in mind his hectic schedule over the next three months.
If at all, India does need to consider his absence from this second match, then Shreyas Iyer would come in as a replacement.
He was left out from the previous game in favour of Manish Pandey but now comes back into reckoning owing to Kohli’s pending fitness ruling.
The pitch at Supersport Park has played slow throughout this tour and the same is to be expected once more. In that light, India could once again opt for two spinners in the eleven, and ‘chinaman’ Kuldeep Yadav comes back into the reckoning.
In Johannesburg, it was obvious that the team management had gauged conditions early and deemed 200 a par-score on that pitch.
Kohli’s ‘demotion’ to number four, despite staggering average at his favoured spot, helps stabilise the lower middle order at least in the short term.
Meanwhile, only last Tuesday, South Africa had faced a do-or-die moment in Port Elizabeth and now have their backs up against the wall for the second time in eight days.
The hosts had put their hopes in a basket full of new eggs. Yet, despite hitting the refresh button, they weren’t able to muster the required challenge for a high-flying Indian team at the moment.
AB de Villiers is now ruled out of this T20I series (with a left knee problem) as well but Cricket South Africa has not named a replacement. So, JP Duminy must find solutions from within the available squad.
The stand-in skipper was adamant that their plans at Wanderers including the decision to bowl short to India’s top-order in the powerplay overs were sound enough and just needed proper execution.
In that light, it is easy to assume the same playing eleven could take the field yet again.
It remains to be seen if the Centurion pitch will provide them enough bounce to try out the short-ball ploy once again, or indeed if the Proteas have thought of a plan B this time around.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Shreyas Iyer, 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.