India look to ward off whitewash at Eden

Hosts may experiment with combination

India look to ward off whitewash at Eden

A smarting India would be looking to restore some semblance of pride and give the bench strength a much-needed match practice ahead of bigger battles when they take on a confident South Africa in the third and final T20I here on Thursday.

In the two matches so far two different departments have let them down separately, allowing South Africa to open up an unassailable 2-0 lead that has reduced the final game at the Eden Gardens to a mere formality.

In the first match at Dharamsala, India posted a strong 199/5 but bad bowling and some belligerent batting from Jean Paul Duminy saw South Africa chase it down with seven wickets and two balls to spare. Things then just went from bad to worse for the Indians at Cuttack.

Despite playing at a venue where they had enjoyed considerable success, albeit in ODIs, the Indians were undone by the brilliant fielding of South Africa. The visitors, who had beaten India just twice in eight attempts in T20Is, brought their exceptional fielding to the fore to knock the stuffing out of the Indians.

Virat Kohli was sent packing by a quick flat throw from the deep by Chris Morris and even before they could recover from the blow, Rohit Sharma was left shocked by a stunning piece of work at point from the athletic David Miller.

The middle order failed to put its hand up and as such with the Indians suffering a rare batting implosion on home soil, the South Africans cantered home amidst two stoppages owing to crowd trouble.

“Every game is a challenge for us,” said off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on the eve of the match.

“Yes, we lost the series as we didn’t play well. But Eden is a special place for us and winning here means a lot to us. We’ll give it our best shot and we hope to take confidence from the game for the upcoming ODIs and Test matches. Once we start winning we are a different team.”

While it’s not fair to read too much into the last two matches considering the fickle nature of T20s, the Indian think-tank could try giving Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra and Stuart Binny a hit with the bigger picture in mind.

All three are part of the team picked for the first three ODIs and a small outing here would help them get into groove.

For South Africa, who trained with pace merchants Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel (the duo was absent from T20s but set to carry the burden in the ODIs and Tests), almost everything has gone right at the start of a marathon run. Their batting has looked in fine shape and with guys like David Miller yet to explode, they seem to have put the lessons learnt from playing in the IPL to good use.

The new-look pace bowling set-up recovered well from the battering they received in the opening match and with each one eager to make a name for himself, one can expect another good show from them.

A 3-0 verdict could lift South Africa’s morale immensely while a win could help India get in their stride. And that’s what could make this inconsequential affair somewhat interesting.

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