The format may have changed but the results kept on going the way of the Indians as they registered a thumping win over the South Africans in the first T20 international. The South Africans were dealt a big blow when AB de Villiers was ruled out of the T20 series, perhaps in a bid to ensure his fitness for the Australia series, but missing players cannot be an excuse for their performances so far. This next T20 international is a must-win game for the hosts otherwise the third game of this series will be a dead rubber.
JP Duminy tried to do something different in order to try and throw the Indians off their game and that was to bowl short at their top-order. Did it work? Duminy said after the match that he was happy with how the South African tactic worked out but we beg to differ.
India did lose the wicket of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina but ended the powerplay with 78 runs on the board. South Africa missed the fact that the Indians are normally sedate starters and then try to accelerate later in the innings. This short bowling tactic actually allowed the Indians to get off to the kind of start they normally dream off.
We think that South Africa has to rethink their bowling strategy or at least execute it better in the second match. The pitch at the Centurion is also going to be a little on the slower side and so a change of pace could be a better option.
Another glaring thing about the South African performance was their fielding. A couple of catches, including one very easy one, were put down in the field. These things can really pull the team down, especially a team that has not been winning enough in recent times.
The South Africans are usually a terrific fielding side and we expect them to lift themselves in the field in the upcoming games. There were a few positives for South Africa to build on, though.
The newcomers, Jon Jon Smuts, Reeza Hendricks, and Junior Dala all performed well. Smuts and Hendricks got the South Africans off to a good start in the chase while Dala was the highest wicket taker as well.
If the South African senior batsmen can finally start to make some contributions then they stand a very good chance at putting up good scores or chasing down what India has set. In fact, we actually think that the South African batsmen did a decent job in the first match.
South Africa is being let down by its bowling attack at the moment and that is a much more difficult problem to fix. Dane Paterson is quick but lacks control, Junior Dala is a good bowler but not someone the opposition will lose too much sleep over, while Morris and Phehlukwayo are becoming cannon fodder for the Indians.
Tabraiz Shamsi has shown some promise but with the pressure being let off at the other end, the Indians can afford to wait on him to make the mistake.
South Africa will need its batsmen to really have a good day or the Indian batsmen to have a bad one if they are to make a comeback in this series.
India went into this match with supreme confidence and it showed in the manner in which they attacked the South Africans. Unlike Indian teams of the past, the top-order relishes short-pitched bowling and could not believe its luck when they were handed scoring opportunities by the dozen in the powerplay.
Shikhar Dhawan is batting like a million dollars and if Rohit Sharma can stay in for a prolonged period in the next match then India could very well be looking at over 200 again. It was surprising to see Suresh Raina in at 3 because he could be India’s answer to the middle concerns they have in both the shorter formats of the game.
Maybe Virat Kohli wanted to give him some time to get set and then take the attack to the opposition but Rain was in the mood to hit every ball out of the park. For him, more than any other batsman, this series is a huge opportunity to get back into the Indian team on a more permanent basis.
Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni, and Hardik Pandya did not have too much time to make an impact and were also at the receiving end of some quality death bowling. It is unlikely that India will tinker with this combination.
The real difference between the two sides was once again India’s bowling. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was excellent with the new ball and changed his pace effectively with the old ball to end with 5 wickets. He and Bumrah are the leaders of this Indian bowling attack and a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Yuzvendra Chahal was a little expensive but continue to look for wickets, something that is required by his captain, and he has enough experience to not get fazed by a few runs. We are less convinced about Jaidev Unadkat as the fourth bowler. His change of pace is not too deceptive and even though he has added a few yards in pace, he still needs to get much better at executing his skills.
India can actually consider playing Kuldeep Yadav in this lineup as well especially since none of the batsmen seem to be picking him.
The Indian team is definitely going to be the favorite going into this match and it is going to be difficult for South Africa to stop this juggernaut.
The centurion has served up slow pitches which take turn this entire series. These are the kind of surfaces that actually play into the hand of the Indians and so we might see a bit more grass left on the surface. The days when the Indian team could be disadvantaged significantly by the pitch, though, seem to be past as their pace bowlers are very potent as well.
Hopefully, we will be able to get in some cricket because the current forecast is for a lot of rain.
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