After Kanpur, another furnace like heat in Rajkot is sure to test India and South Africa in the third ODI on Sunday. However, India’s confidence is up after the win in Indore and weather may not weigh them down.
India’s victory to level the series, on the back of skipper MS Dhoni’s belligerent 92 not out, has raised the prospect of an even contest after the first three matches of the series had left one wondering whose home series it is. With spinners Harbhajan Singh and Axar Patel also coming together in the absence of the injured R Ashwin, the hosts can again look forward to exploiting their strength.
South Africa are aware of India’s ability to bounce back and how their players can feed on such confidence. However, if there is one area where both teams have struggled, that is in their middle-order, with Suresh Raina and David Miller not clicking.
The two left-handers, identical in many ways, find themselves in a hole, paying the price for their miscalculated risks. Raina’s lack of judgement is partly borne out of the fact that he is grappling to come to terms with his new position. Dhoni walking in after him is far more assuring than the other way around as is the case now.
Dhoni had made it clear before the World Cup that he was experimenting with Yuvraj Singh and Raina for the No 4 slot, which the latter sealed for the tournament. Now No 6 is not hugely different from No 4 for a batsman who became successful as No 5. And despite his proven performance at No 3 in the IPL, he had to give up that hope for India in the interests of the team as Virat Kohli took that spot.
However, Raina finds his No 6 spot a tad unsettling as he is caught between building the innings first or exploding straightway, which is messing up his shot selection.
Miller’s fleeting appearances on the pitch has nothing to do with the position he plays in, unlike Raina. He is proven at the number he comes to bat, but his bad time with the bat has been masked by good performances of his team mates. However, he was exposed when his team needed him to stay longer at the wicket, in Indore in the only official match of the series South Africa have lost.
With his IPL exploits having left an indelible mark and his knock in the World Cup semis against New Zealand still alive, his team is not yet looking at anyone for his position. “We as a team know who your good players are. Dave for us is a very good player—a match winner.
As all of us go through the phase where we don’t score enough runs; it is important for the team to make sure we back him. I can tell you from the captain’s point of view because he can change the game on his own. …As a team, we know that he is the best for that position, he can win games for us, and we believe that he is going to come good,” said T20 skipper Faf du Plessis.
In Kanpur and Indore, the losing side couldn’t take control of the last few overs, when action shifts to the bottom half of the batting order. But whoever gets back to form faster is likely to be a decisive factor in crunch moments.