SuperSport Park, Centurion
February 16, Friday; 13:00 local, 16:30 IST
Live on Sony Ten 1 HD, Ten 1 (English), Ten 3 HD, Ten 3 (Hindi)
The main picture
“We want to win 5-1 for sure, that doesn’t change,” were the words of captain Virat Kohli after India’s series-clinching victory at St George’s Park on Tuesday, giving them a 1-4 series lead with one match left to be played. You can hardly be surprised by Kohli’s approach to the inconsequential final ODI, given that he’s a fierce competitor and a born winner, while he’s also right to want to win this series by a 1-5 margin. India might never get an opportunity away from home to secure such an emphatic ODI series victory and consistency in results will stand this team in good stead heading into the 2019 World Cup.
Winning the fifth ODI, apart from sealing the series, handed India the No. 1 ODI ranking and, regardless of the result on Friday, they will finish this historic series as the numero uno one-day side. Should India win, though, they will inflict South Africa’s second-worst ODI series defeat: the Proteas’ biggest series defeat to date is their losing a five-ODI series 5-0 against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in 2004 and in a series of more than five ODIs, they have lost 5-1 only on two other occasions, against Australia in 2002 and New Zealand in 2004.
Having come with a 17-man ODI squad, India have more than a handful of players waiting in the wings and keen to make an impression. However, the team management might not make wholesale changes to the XI from Tuesday, with Kohli, again, reiterating his preference for winning over everything else: “The first priority is to win and we’ll do anything to do that again.”
South Africa will also want to end this series on a winning note, but their main problem has been the lack of firepower in the batting department and batsmen’s failure to fire with the exception of the Johannesburg ODI. AB de Villiers has probably not recovered completely from his right index finger injury and failed to make the kind of impact we expected of him and the Jean-Paul Duminys and David Millers around him have been in iffy form as well.
If the two matches played at SuperSport Park so far on this tour (one Test and one ODI) are anything to go by, the Proteas may once again be playing on a foreign pitch that assists the spinners. Ravichandran Ashwin enjoyed bowling in the second Test match and Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav took a combined eight wickets (for a concession of a mere 48 runs) in the second ODI. For South Africa to stand a chance of winning the final ODI, they need the pitch that plays to their strengths. The toss hasn’t had much of a bearing on the results in day-night ODI matches played here, with the teams batting first winning on 12 occasions and the teams chasing winning nine of the 23 matches (two no results).
On the days leading to the matchday, Centurion has received some rain. But the weather forecast for Friday (February 16) is for some sunshine and partly cloudy weather.
SA: LWLLL (from left to right, last five completed ODIs)
India vs South Africa 6th ODI playing XI
If the pitch is dry, then South Africa may contemplate playing both Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi, who bowled reasonably well in the fifth ODI, even though he didn’t take a wicket in his 10 overs. Jean-Paul Duminy, but for the half-century in the third ODI at Newlands, has been clueless with the bat and, with the series now gone, Farhaan Behardien may finally get his chance. Another possible change may be bringing Chris Morris in for Andile Phehlukwayo.
Possible South Africa playing XI for the sixth ODI: 1 Aiden Markram (c), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Jean-Paul Duminy/Farhaan Behardien, 5 David Miller, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Chris Morris/Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Tabraiz Shamsi, 10 Imran Tahir/Morne Morkel, and 11 Lungi Ngidi
For India, Jasprit Bumrah has played every match on this tour, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar has played all but the second Test match, which was also at this venue. The Indian middle order has failed to complement the top-order, with Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer failing to make an impression in the few chances they have had. With Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik yet to feature, and Kedar Jadhav having only had one opportunity to bat so far this series, at least two of them might be given an opportunity in the final ODI.
Possible India playing 11 for the sixth ODI: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Kedar Jadhav/Dinesh Karthik, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel/Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Shardul Thakur/Mohammed Shami
India, even if they make a few changes to their winning combination from the previous ODI, will be the stronger team on paper. The result of this match is likely to hinge on the nature of the pitch. South Africa obviously need a pitch with pace and bounce and one on which their fast bowlers can make the ball talk up front.