India favourites but SA have fresh dose of confidence

Match details
Newlands, Cape Town
February 24, Saturday; 18:00 local, 21:30 IST
Live on Sony Ten 1 HD, Ten 1 (English), Ten 3 HD, Ten 3 (Hindi)

The main picture

A couple of aspects became clear with South Africa winning the second T20 International: one is, India’s bowling attack is not the same, even with the potency rendered by their wrist-spinner(s), without Jasprit Bumrah, and this relatively inexperienced host have match-winners in them as well. And make no mistake, these aspects will in all likelihood have the say in the third and final T20I.

Bumrah missed the second match due to abdominal stiffness and may return for tomorrow’s decider. In his absence, India missed a wicket-taker who can also not be carted around because of how hard he hits the bat. Yuzvendra Chahal had an off day and Virat Kohli made a tactical error in persisting with his leg-spinner despite his conceding 51 runs in his first three overs. (One over of Bhuvneshwar Kumar was unused even if South Africa won with an over and two balls to spare.)

India remain a formidable outfit who have only been reinforced further by MS Dhoni and Manish Pandey scoring runs. And the current crop of players is mentally strong too and unlikely to be alarmed by Wednesday night’s defeat. The visitor will have liked to go into this final match with the series and tour won, and the invincibility allowing for experimentation and senior players to be rested. But now they face a test of focus and hunger to push themselves for one last time to secure the honours.

South Africa will be emboldened by their performance in the second T20 and feel they are capable of beating India once more. Junior Dala stood out with the ball in the second T20I but he was well-supported by Andile Phehlukwayo, Jon-Jon Smuts and Jean-Paul Duminy, who needed to be good to make up for the expensive Dane Paterson and Chris Morris. But the no-brainer is the host needing their specialists Paterson and Morris to come good in Cape Town.

Duminy is a quality T20 batsman who has to continue from where he left off on Wednesday night, while Heinrich Klaasen will look to finish what has been a fantastic debut series for him on a high. The host will look up to these two batsmen in Cape Town and the challenge for batting line-up, on the whole, will be stiff if Bumrah returns for India and maybe Kuldeep Yadav makes the playing XI too.

India return for one last time to the venue where they began their tour of South Africa on a disappointing note. The Newlands pitch is likely to be good for batting, just as it was for the third ODI, and the bowlers will rely on changes of pace to keep the batsmen on a tight leash. In terms of T20Is, this hasn’t been an overly high-scoring venue, with the average score in the last five years being in the 170s. Teams chasing have won five of the six night matches here. The weather forecast is for showers on Saturday morning but the night is expected to be clear and cooler with a temperature of 14 degree Celsius.

Recent form

SA: WLWWL (from left to right, last five completed T20Is)

India vs South Africa 3rd T20 playing XI

With only 13 players in their T20 squad, South Africa do not have many options. And they might well stick with the winning combination, even though Dane Paterson was expensive for a second consecutive match.

Possible SA playing XI for second T20: 1 Jean-Paul Duminy (c), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Jon-Jon Smuts, 4 Farhaan Behardien, 5 David Miller, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Dane Paterson, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 Junior Dala

If Bumrah is fit, he will come straight back into the XI, probably in place of Shardul Thakur, who was good with the ball on his T20I debut. What will be interesting to see is if India persist with Chahal after he conceded the third-most number of runs by a bowler in Twenty20 Internationals, or bring in Kuldeep Yadav, who missed the first T20I with an injured left thumb. The rest of the playing XI picks itself.

Possible India playing 11 for the first T20: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Jasprit Bumrah/Shardul Thakur, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav, 11 Jaydev Unadkat


India remain favourites but the difference this time around is South Africa will feel they have the measure of India following their victory in Centurion. The psychological make-up of these two teams adds much intrigue to the final as much as the on-field battle itself.

Your opinion...