Set for a super game at SuperSport Park in Centurion
It's back to where it all started about seven weeks back - SuperSport Park in Centurion. The first punches were thrown here for what turned out to be a fierce and exciting battle and today will see the adrenaline-pumping action reach a befitting climax. Subhash Rajta reports. Special | Graphics | Match Reckonercricket Updated: Jan 23, 2011 11:17 IST
It's back to where it all started about seven weeks back - SuperSport Park in Centurion. The first punches were thrown here for what turned out to be a fierce and exciting battle and Sunday will see the adrenaline-pumping action reach a befitting climax.
From India's perspective, though, the start and the end to the South African tour couldn't have been more different. They were humbled and humiliated on a damp Centurion wicket in the first Test, but on Sunday they will walk out with an eye on creating history. Centurion drama in numbersWho will eventually emerge triumphant is tough to guess, given how vigorously the fortunes of both the teams have swung in that last four ODI matches, leaving them tied 2-2 ahead of the decider.
South Africa pulled off easy wins when India failed to push them hard, but when the visitors managed to bring them under pressure, the hosts "choked" and India pulled of spectacular wins at the Wanderers and Newlands. Given how SA had some "fade out moments" during close ties, as their combative skipper Graeme Smith described, it would be interesting to see how they handle pressure.
While the mere mention of the C-word puts off SA players - no one even remotely suggested wit when they lost those two close matches - their former teammate Herschelle Gibbs has admitted the lack of "big match temperament" in the side in his book "To the Point". He writes that South Africa has agonisingly fallen short in big matches, mainly "due to an alarming degree of brain fade at critical moments."
While India will hope the hosts again suffer another infamous freeze, they will need to make major improvements in batting. In the four matches so far, they have crossed the 200-mark just once and apart from Virat Kohli, and to an extent Yusuf Pathan, no other batsman has inspired much confidence.
South Africa, too, have a few problems to address in their batting department. They have made it a habit of sorts to run into trouble from good positions. JP Duminy and the lower order rescued them in the last game, but it would be too much to ask from the long tail to come good in high pressure games.
India have the opportunity of winning the first ever ODI series in South Africa while the hosts will want to win it for skipper Smith, who will lead the team for the last time at home as he is giving up ODI captaincy after the World Cup. "It's been a great journey for me as captain in the last seven years, and it would of course be great to finish on a high," he said. The hosts can expect no sentiment from the visitors determined to go into the World Cup on a high.