Steve Smith might hold a slight edge over Virat Kohli in Test cricket, but when it comes to white-ball format the Indian captain is way ahead of his fellow rivals. The 30-year-old was at his very best in the second T20I in Mohali as South Africa were blown away by his dexterity with the bat.
After the Dharamshala T20I was washed out, India outclassed South Africa completely in the second encounter of the three-match series and registered an easy seven-wicket win. The action now shifts to Bangalore where Kohli has played a lot of cricket in the last 12 years. The Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper knows the ins and outs of the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium and will expect his team to come up with another authoritative performance against the Quinton de Kock-led side.
Rohit Sharma failed to get going in Mohali but India will be delighted with the fact that Shikhar Dhawan scored some runs (31-ball 40) and looked in solid touch. The left-hander’s lacklustre knocks in the West Indies tour had put him under scrutiny but Dhawan was able to spend some time in the middle and crafted some glorious shots through the off side. Chasing 150, the opener added 61 runs with Kohli who remained unbeaten on 72.
Kohli didn’t try to rush things and once again crafted his innings perfectly. The right-hander will now make his return to a venue where he has amassed 2537 runs in 77 T20s at an average of over 38. Dhawan too has a pretty decent record on this ground but the same can’t be said about Rohit who averages just over 21 at this venue. Despite some minor flaws, the top-order is really consistent and mostly does the job for India.
However, India will be worried about Rishabh Pant’s performance with the bat. Head coach Ravi Shastri and new batting coach Vikram Rathour have already expressed some concerns over Pant’s “fearless but careless” approach and the spotlight will once again be on the dynamic wicketkeeper-batsman. Pant has not been able to express himself at No. 4 and sending him slightly down the order will give that freedom to play his natural game. More importantly, Shreyas Iyer is too good of a batsman to bat at No. 5 and someone like him following Kohli in the batting order will give India more solidity.
The team management have done well with micromanaging Hardik Pandya’s workload, but with him being back, and Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya and Washington Sundar doing well, India now have a lot of depth in both batting and bowling departments.
The preparations for the 2020 World T20 have well and truly started and the team management will be happy with how most of the new players have pounced on every single opportunity that has been given to them. Navdeep Saini can be inconsistent sometimes but he has that pace and aggression which Kohli admires. Meanwhile, Deepak Chahar doesn’t have the same ingredients but the medium-pacer knows his strengths and weaknesses very well and operates accordingly. Termed as the powerplay specialist, Deepak has worked a lot on his death bowling in the last 12 months and the results are out there for everyone to see.
The surface at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium is a batsman’s paradise. India played Washington, Jadeja and Krunal in Mohali but they might bring in Rahul Chahar for the final T20I considering the leg-spinners’ solid record at this venue. The hosts also have left-arm paceman Khaleel Ahmed up their arsenal and he might get a look in if Kohli wants to bring some variety in the bowling attack.
On the other hand, new South African T20I captain de Kock had a terrific outing as a batsman but failed to keep the unit together. He along with Temba Bavuma got South Africa off to a superb start but once he departed, the visitors lost all the momentum and could only score 27 runs in the last four overs and 16 off those came in the final over. South Africa doesn’t have that depth in their batting and the likes of de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller will have to come good if they want to pose any challenge to India.
Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje have that pace but they will have to use more variations if they want to trouble Indian batsmen, something that Andile Phehlukwayo did brilliantly in the last game.
In George Linde, South Africa have that Krunal and Jadeja-like player. The 27-year-old, who did well for South Africa A in the five-match series against India A, is a handy left-arm spinner and is also someone who can smoke some lusty blows down the order. The visitors also have an option of playing Beuran Hendricks who can bring some variety in their one-dimensional pace attack.
Senior pros like de Kock, Miller and Rabada will have to put their hands up and lead this inexperienced South African side from the front, but if they don’t, India will make sure there will be no sharing and it’s just Kohli collecting the series trophy in Bangalore - his second home.
Pitch and weather conditions
The surface at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium is very good for batting and we might have a high-scoring affair. However, rain is expected to make its presence felt and will have an impact on the game.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar/Ravindra Jadeja/Rahul Chahar (two of these three), Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Bjorn Fortuin/George Linde, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.