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South African with an uphill task to recover from red-faced showing

Last updated on 18 Dec 2023 | 03:28 PM
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South African with an uphill task to recover from red-faced showing

India, though, would be the happiest team after that mauling in Johannesburg

Why would you play an ODI in a T20 World Cup year?

That was definitely the question on many minds as India geared up against South Africa at the Bullring on Sunday (December 17). Maybe this series isn’t really going to serve a purpose apart from the economics of the game, which helps South Africa, considering the biggest selling property - the India team - are finally in their backyard. 

It was evident when the two teams kicked off the three-match ODI series. There was a sense of emptiness, with this series really not building up to anything massive. However, it gave India a real glimpse into the future - one without Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and the early signs are quite positive. 

On the other hand, South Africa faced a mauling. They were on the wrong side of things after betting on batting first, with conditions slightly favouring the bowling side. Arshdeep Singh took full advantage of the conditions with a five-for, well-backed by Avesh Khan, who turned the heat up with a four-wicket haul at the other end. 

Things to watch out for

Can South Africa’s batting hold strong (at least this time)

116 all-out, 83 all-out, 99 all-out: scores of South Africa’s last three batting displays against India in ODIs. Across those three ODIs, South Africa barely scored runs (evidently), but they struggled to put up against different kinds of bowling: once, it was spin, once it was pace, and the other time perfectly split between pace and spin. 

Aiden Markram has played all the eight innings in the last two years (2022 onwards) against India and has fared just 23.57. Reeza Hendricks averages 25.67, and the only exception in the entire setup is Rassie van der Dussen, who averages 77. After the shambolic display in the previous encounter, all eyes would be on how South Africa’s batting unit - hailed as one of the best in the ODI format - overturn their fortunes. 

Avesh Khan - India’s new midde-over enforcer? 

Arshdeep set the platform; however, Avesh Khan played his role to perfection. A pacer who can bowl hard lengths in the middle overs has become a thing in ODIs, and India could benefit from having someone like Avesh in their set-up. However, he will have tough competition from Prasidh Krishna in the future.

Avesh bowled more than 70 percent of his deliveries either on length or short, and this is exactly what India need from their third seamer. Amongst Indian seamers, Shardul Thakur has taken the most number of wickets (31 @ 24.2) in the middle overs, while Mohammed Shami’s record (21 wickets @ 14.3) is also as good as they come. 

South Africa will have to be aware of the pacer’s threat. 

Ground Details

Gqeberha hasn’t hosted a single ODI in the last three years. In fact, between 2015-19, only seven ODIs have been played at the venue, which makes it quite tricky to read. But in those seven ODIs, teams batting first have often struggled, with a collective average of only 28. 

On the other hand, teams chasing have had it easy, with a batting average of 37.7, so expect both teams to target bowling first at the venue. As expected, pacers have picked 58 wickets at the venue in the same time frame while the spinners have picked up only 27 wickets.

If you are into fantasy, perhaps picking up pacers will be the right way to go about things.  

Tactical Nous

David Miller has 792 runs in ODIs this year, averaging a high 46.59, but a certain weakness comes with the left-hander: his vulnerability against wide deliveries. While he does have a strike-rate of 147.8 against wide deliveries, there comes an asterisk - he’s been dismissed eight times. That’s 57% of his dismissals. Even in the first ODI, Miller was out in a similar fashion - trying to drive a wide delivery with his feet stuck to the ground. 

What about Axar Patel's form?

It was all about Indian pacers in the first ODI, with nine wickets between the duo of Avesh and Arshdeep. There wasn’t even a need for the introduction of Axar Patel, who was a mere spectator in the first ODI. However, if Axar is in the scheme of things for the upcoming T20 World Cup, India would want to test out his form. 

Since 2022, Axar has a bowling average of 35.2, with 14 wickets in 100.3 overs. His bowling against left-handers has been quite underwhelming, with an average of 185, accounting for one wicket. That is an area of concern for the Men in Blue. 

Probable XIs

Shreyas Iyer was only available for the first ODI, which means India will have to make a change ahead of the second ODI. There are two options, either they can pick the in-form Rinku Singh, who is coming on the back of two great T20I series’ against Australia and South Africa, or they can trust someone like Rajat Patidar, who has shown great touch at the domestic level. 

India likely XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sai Sudharsan, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh/Rajat Patidar, KL Rahul (c & wk), Sanju Samson, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh.

South Africa likely XI: Reeza Hendricks, Tony de Zorzi, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram (c), Heinrich Klaasen (wk), David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Nandre Burger, Tabraiz Shamsi

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