Third ODI: India eye runs from top-order in series-decider against SA

India's lone ODI series win in South Africa came in 2018

india-team-sa-ap Indian cricketers leave the field at the end of the second ODI against South Africa, at the St George's Park in Gqeberha, South Africa | AP

With a similar storyline of faltering opening combination running through the first two matches, India's hopes of registering their second ODI series triumph in South Africa will revolve around a sturdy start from the openers in the third and final match in Paarl on Thursday.

India's lone ODI series win in the Rainbow nation came in 2018, and for an encore they require a robust beginning from Ruturaj Gaikwad and B. Sai Sudharsan as a pair.

Sai Sudharsan has been impressive in his two outings in the series so far, notching up 55 and 62. But Gaikwad could not support him from the other end.

The right-hander fell for five and four as India's first-wicket alliance ended at 23 and four at Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

In contrast, South African openers Tony de Zorzi, who cracked his maiden century, and Reeza Hendricks milked 130 runs to kill the chase.

Similarly, Tilak Varma, who showed some early promise in his career, seemed to have tapered off a bit in the last couple of months.

The elegant left-hander who packs a punch struggled to touch his peak in the home T20I series against Australia and the struggle seemed to have followed him to South Africa as well.

It is important for Gaikwad and Varma, unless he is replaced with uncapped Rajat Patidar for tomorrow's match, to rediscover their range because India no longer have Shreyas Iyer in the middle-order to shore up the innings. The 30-year-old Patidar usually bats at No. 4 for Madhya Pradesh.

Iyer had joined an inter-squad match to prepare for the upcoming Test series after the first one-dayer.

However, these top order batters can draw some solace from the Boland Park pitch, which often tends to lean towards batsmen.

The Port Elizabeth pitch had a bit of uneven bounce on it, particularly in the first innings, but the Paarl deck often offers true bounce and carry, helping batters to free their arms and go through the shots without any inhibitions.

It might also nudge the think-tank to give another chance to free-hitting Sanju Samson, who got out for 12 in the last match, and the Kerala cricketer donning the big gloves at Port Elizabeth could be an indication of that.

India also have a tiny concern in their bowling department ahead of the third ODI. Mukesh Kumar is yet to pick up a wicket in two matches, and the pacer needs to slip into his striking armour sooner than later.

The Bengal man found the going tough once Proteas opener Tony de Zorzi bludgeoned him through the on-side with mighty hacks.

Arshdeep Singh and Avesh Khan did the perfect demolition job in the first match, and the former continued to be thrifty in the second match as well.

So, it is imperative for Mukesh to find his rhythm with the new ball and pick up a wicket or two upfront to keep South Africa on the backfoot.

The team management might also think of giving a match to veteran leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, whose tour to SA will end on the morrow.

He had shown a streak of good form in the recent Vijay Hazare Trophy for Haryana.

But it remains to be seen whether the management can convince either Kuldeep Yadav or Axar Patel to move away for Chahal.

Both Kuldeep and Axar have been selected for the Test series and the spin duo would want to have as much game-time as possible against their names.

From a South African perspective, the performance of left-handed De Zorzi might have filled them with the hopes of finding an ideal, long-term replacement for Quinton de Kock.

Fast bowler Nandre Burger too was fiery with the new ball and the Proteas will hope for him to give another hustle round to the Indians.



KL Rahul (captain, WK), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sai Sudharsan, Tilak Varma, Rajat Patidar, Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson (wk), Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Akash Deep.

South Africa:

Aiden Markram (captain), Nandre Burger, Tony de Zorzi, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Mihlali Mpongwana, Wiaan Mulder, Beuran Hendricks. Rassie van der Dussen, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams, Kyle Verreynne.

Match starts at 4.30pm IST.

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