Toss likely to be crucial in decider in Mumbai with ODI series locked at 2-2
There was plenty of hype and expectation when it was announced that South Africa would travel to India for a 72-day long tour, and not without reason.
South Africa won the Twenty20 International leg of the tour 2-0, but the five-match One-Day International series is set for a cracking finish in Mumbai on Sunday (October 25), with both sides having won two matches each.
India and South Africa have been competitive and not a single match in the tour, apart from the second T20I in Cuttack, has been one-sided.
The ODI series has followed a similar pattern, with the team winning the toss opting to bat and going on to win in all four matches. It naturally means that the toss at the Wankhede stadium will be crucial.
There’s little gap between the last two matches and understandably, both sides had light net sessions on the eve of the match. Even the customary Team Kohli v Team Dhoni football match was absent from India’s session.
Things are falling in place for India at the right time, with key players striking form. There was much movement in the batting order initially but it seems more settled now, with Virat Kohli once again sealing his favourite No. 3 spot with knocks of 77 and 138 in the last two outings.
Ajinkya Rahane has provided solidity to the top order while Suresh Raina also returned to run-scoring ways in Chennai with a brisk half-century.
Rohit Sharma has already notched up scores of 150, 3, 65 and 21 in the series so far, and the home side will hope for more fireworks from him in the final match, which happens to be his home ground.
The one big concern for the home side will the form of Shikhar Dhawan, who has managed only 66 runs so far in the series. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s form isn’t exactly a worry after the match-winning 92 in Indore, but India will hope he gets his power-hitting ability back soon. And that’s precisely what he seemed to be working on in the nets on Saturday.
On the bowling front, India’s three spinners – Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel and Amit Mishra - have called the shots. And when that’s the case, Dhoni the captain is usually in control.
South Africa went into the fourth ODI as favourites to seal the series, but a turning track and a team balance upset by injuries to key players altered things completely, and handed over the momentum to India.
Hashim Amla revealed that Morne Morkel is yet to recover from the sore leg that kept him out of the fourth ODI and is unlikely to take field on Sunday. But it is JP Duminy’s hand injury that has hurt South Africa more.
Duminy also doubled up as an offspinner, giving them flexibility and the choice of playing an extra batsman. Duminy’s absence has been a big blow to the side. While Hashim Amla has scored just 66 runs in four innings, David Miller has managed only 52, and their form adds even more pressure on AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis.
The trio have managed the challenge well so far. De Kock has provided quick starts and he also made a match-winning century in Rajkot. De Villiers has two typically brilliant centuries already, while du Plessis has three half-centuries from four games.
The bowling attack will miss Morkel, especially on a pitch with as much bounce as Wankhede, but South Africa will be pleased with Kagiso Rabada’s consistent performances. Dale Steyn is the joint highest wicket-taker of the series with seven scalps to his name, but he has also been on the expensive side.
The visiting side will also want more from Imran Tahir, who went wicketless for 58 runs from nine overs on a turning track in Chennai. South Africa replaced Duminy with Aaron Phangiso in Chennai, but the move didn’t work as the left-arm spinner was also wicketless and expensive in nine overs. Kyle Abbott could perhaps get a look in on Sunday.
South Africa has lost all three ODIs it has played at Wankhede while India will always have the wonderful memories of the 2011 World Cup win. History, though, will barely matter with little to choose between the two sides.
It couldn't have been set up better for a super-Sunday.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso, Khaya Zondo, Dean Elgar.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (capt, wk), Suresh Raina, Axar Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma, S Arvind, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Stuart Binny, Ambati Rayudu.