There’s more life to this dead rubber than may appear given both India and South Africa laid foundation stones to Mission 2019 ahead of the series. By virtue of the result alone, the visitors will find themselves slightly ahead of the curve in terms of preparation for World Cup. By claiming the ODI series and by leap-frogging their hosts to the top of the ODI pile, their South African tour has turned around since Virat Kohli asked his team to be obsessively “mad” about winning away from home after they squandered their unbeaten Test series run at this very venue in mid-January. Their only off-field concern entering the sixth and final ODI is a possible hangover from the breakthrough success – and the celebrations.
As far as bigger pictures go, it shouldn’t take much for India to refocus. They still have issues to address, most notably with the middle-order. While a game like this may not provide instant solutions, it could at least offer a sense of direction. For all the run-guzzling feats of the top-three, the middle order of Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya has struggled to maintain the pace, let alone force it, in the final 20 overs of the ODI game. In times of doubling the total after 30 overs, India have managed 103/5 and 116/6 and 133/3 in the last three games. This ought to cripple the team when they move to truer batting conditions. On those surfaces, India’s lack of a sixth bowling option – in the injury absence of Kedar Jadhav – could also prove to be a more gaping weakness.
South Africa, meanwhile, have more causes for forehead creases with the series plonking giant question marks on their middle-order’s ability to play quality spin. The squad is injury-hit, disjointed, and out of form. They punted with a young captain in Aiden Markram with an eye on the future but may have inadvertently contributed to a swift decline in his batting form. Given the fragile state of the squad following the heavy defeats, a victory even in a dead rubber could revitalise the setup for the rest of the summer – and the forthcom a little bit. ing Australia series – as India’s win at the Wanderers Test did for them.
When: South Africa vs India, 6th ODI, February 16, 13:00 Local, 16:30 IST
Where: SuperSport Park, Centurion
What to expect: Heavy rains lashed Johannesburg and Centurion on match eve. While India had anyway opted against practicing on match eve, South Africa had to pack up theirs within 10 minutes. There’s a forecast for scattered thunderstorms in Centurion on the day of the game but it is scheduled to hit early in the morning and later in the night and the cricket might just escape both. As far as the pitch is concerned, the SuperSport has hosted two games on this tour and both have not favoured the hosts one bit. While Curator Bryan Bloy’s ODI wicket offered more bounce than its Test counterpart, the ball still spun appreciably for Yuzvendra Chahal, who grabbed a fifer. But that was a day game. Under lights, there’s a possibility of the ball skidding on more and possibly negating India’s spin twins
Team XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer/Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah/Shardul Thakur, Cricbuzz
Team XI: Aiden Markram (c), Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi