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Another chance for must-win India to iron out kinks

Both batting and bowling at the death dog host as dominant South Africa looks to seal T20I series

Another chance for must-win India to iron out kinks - Cricket News
Axar Patel found out during the first T20I that no amount of IPL games can make up for lack of international experience.
The rarity of international cricket in Cuttack means every time there is a match at the Barabati Stadium, the otherwise sleepy Silver City decks itself up for the occasion. 
The buzz is unmistakable. The chef of the hotel where the teams are staying in Bhubaneswar has made headlines for preparing local Odiya cuisine for the Indian team, and everyone from Dahi Bara Alu Dum ­– a local delicacy – vendors to policemen employed as part of the three-layered security protocol are leaving no stone unturned to be a part of the action. Close to 5000 people turned up at Gallery 6 to watch India and South Africa hone their skills on Sunday, and there was no shortage of pleas for tickets for the second Twenty20 International match on Monday (October 5).
The excitement is further confirmation of the role fans play in the successful running of the cricket jamboree in this country, and Axar Patel will be eager to draw some positive energy out of it.
Patel found out during the first T20I in Dharamsala, where JP Duminy hit him for three consecutive sixes in a momentum-shifting 22-run over, that no amount of Indian Premier League games can make up for lack of international experience. Patel’s case is symptomatic of the Indian team, which has played the least number of T20Is among Test nations barring Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The Board for Control of Cricket in India has tried to address the anomaly by organising a plethora of matches between the ongoing three-match series and the 2016 World T20 at home in March and April. And, one of the key agendas for the team management building up to the mega event would be to get the balance right, a factor that was exposed in the seven-wicket loss in Dharamsala.
That India managed just 41 runs in the last five overs despite being comfortably placed after Rohit Sharma’s fluent century had a touch of déjà vu to it. An identical problem had hampered its chances in the 2014 World T20 final against Sri Lanka, when India made just 19 runs in the last four overs batting first.
As well as Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange and Kagiso Rabada bowled in the death overs, the absence of the right personnel stalled India’s progress. Suresh Raina captures the shortcoming best. The highest run-getter in the history of IPL where he has scored most of his runs for Chennai Super Kings from No.3, Raina’s unfamiliarity as a finisher in the shortest format has meant a vital cog is missing from the line-up.
The first from India to record a century across three formats and 39 short of  becoming the second Indian, after Virat Kohli, to make 1000 T20I runs, the last time Raina scored 35 or more in an innings at a strike-rate above 145 for India was in December 2012. With dew set to play a major role and the threat of rain looming large, the form of Raina and other middle-order batsmen – ever so critical when the No. 7 and No. 8 batsmen are yet to display their hitting wherewithal – in the end overs will be crucial to India’s chances of levelling the series.

Apart from R Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India’s thin bowling resources also needs attention. Considering South Africa’s limitations against quality spin bowling, either Amit Mishra or Harbhajan Singh – the two most successful spinners in IPL history – could add depth. Mishra’s fine record as a legspinner in familiar conditions make him an ideal ally for Ashwin, but the lack of firepower in India’s lower middle order may mean Patel gets another go on a pitch that is expected to be batsman-friendly.
South Africa is brimming with confidence after its comeback from Rohit’s onslaught. The win to start the series, during which it ticked almost all boxes, yet again justifies its reputation as one of the better touring sides in world cricket.
It had a light practice session, with some of the players honing their hitting skills on the match square, and Farhaan Behardien explained in the press conference later how they have prepared to tackle India’s spin strength.
With Cuttack’s altitude much lesser than Dharamsala and the ground slightly bigger, strike rotation will play a major role in humid conditions. South Africa will once again be dependent on AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla to set a strong foundation, and India will expect Rohit to produce an encore. 
As for Cuttack’s cricket-hungry fans, a close contest without any interference from the weather would do just fine.
Teams (from):
MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, S Arvind, Amit Mishra, Harbhajan Singh, Stuart Binny.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange, Eddie Leie, Albie Morkel, Quinton de Kock, Khaya Zondo.

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