Pressure on South Africa to level series
February 24, 2010
Start time 14.30 (09.00GMT)
The Big Picture
The series opener in Jaipur shouldn't have got so close. Ashish Nehra should have been bowled off the penultimate ball of the innings. India's total, as a result of that freakish incident - when the ball deflected off the stumps - should have been four runs less. India's bowlers shouldn't have allowed the South African tail to put their specialist batsmen to shame. A more conclusive camera angle/replay would have determined whether Sachin Tendulkar legitimately saved the boundary in the final over. All these significant incidents proved the difference between an Indian win and any other result.
The South Africans would no doubt have debated these ifs and buts after that game. Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell scripted a near-Houdini act but it couldn't hide what was otherwise an unflattering batting performance, Jacques Kallis excepted. It was puzzling why they omitted their in-form player Hashim Amla - not the most well-known limited-overs player around but one who adds glue to the top order. South Africa missed him and could sacrifice one of the openers for him. They have to get their combination right because another defeat tomorrow will render the series lost and the final ODI a dead rubber.
The other area of concern is the number of extras. All bowlers, except Johan Botha, conceded wides and there were 12 in all, which made a difference in the final outcome. It doesn't necessarily warrant wholesale changes to the bowling attack. All they need to focus on is discipline and their ability to vary their pace a lot more to induce mistakes. It's imperative bowlers from both sides step up because the curator at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior has promised another track full of runs.
The Indian bowlers have problems too. Their struggles in the death overs are well documented and have become more pronounced in Zaheer Khan's absence. In Jaipur, Dhoni was unhappy with the way they gave away runs with the new ball, let alone in the tense final stages. Both Nehra and Sreesanth are mercurial in nature - they either have a great day or a forgettable day. Dhoni had to rely on part-timers, and the gamble of bowling Suresh Raina didn't pay off. Whether India bring in a specialist spinner on not is something that may be discussed behind closed doors.
Form guide (last five completed games, most recent first)
South Africa LLWLW
Watch out for...
Suresh Raina: On a batting belter in Jaipur, Raina was the only Indian batsman to pass fifty in a total approaching 300. He occupied the crease for nearly 20 overs and collected boundaries with upper cuts and pull shots. His slog sweep is his best shot in the book and we've seen that in the IPL. His bowling was a disappointment, but that's not why he's in the team.
Albie Morkel: He's not in peak form with bat or ball and must be feeling the pressure. He was the batting Powerplay specialist in Australia last year but has struggled for fluency since then. With the ball, he has struggled in the last seven games, picking up five wickets at an expensive 45.80. Should South Africa opt for a spin-bowling allrounder in Roelof van der Merwe, the axe could fall on Morkel because there are already three specialist seamers in the line-up.
Virender Sehwag was off the field in Jaipur with a sore lower back but the word from the Indian camp is that they'll take a final call tomorrow. He batted in the nets without any apparent discomfort. Sreesanth was all over the place, leaking 8.22 an over, despite taking the all-important wicket of Kallis. If they choose to drop him, Sudeep Tyagi could get his chance.
India (probable) 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Dinesh Karthik, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Sreesanth/Sudeep Tyagi
The only possible change for South Africa is the inclusion of Amla in place of someone from the top order.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Loots Bosman/Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Alviro Petersen, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Johan Botha, 11 Charl Langeveldt.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch was relaid two years back, and the curator of the Gwalior Division Cricket Association, Ajay Sahasrabuddhe, has guaranteed a 300-plus surface. He says the toss will not be a factor, and the spinners may get some assistance as the match progresses. There is a tinge of grass to bind the surface together, but it isn't expected to give any advantage to the bowlers. To counter the dew, the groundstaff will use a spray called APSA 80 on the outfield. The same spray was used during the Champions Trophy in India in 2006. It rained on Monday night, but the forecast for tomorrow is sunshine, with a maximum of 28 degrees Celsius.
Stats and trivia
- Gwalior has been a happy hunting ground for India, winning seven out of nine ODIs there.
- India and South Africa last played an ODI at this venue back in 1991, the tourists' first international series after re-admittance. In a match reduced to 45 overs, India posted 223 and won by 38 runs.
- Amla has opened in 19 of his 21 innings in ODIs and has done well at that position, averaging 48.41. He averages close to 50 in ODIs and made his debut nearly four years after playing his first Test.
"Each of the 16 players in the squad is capable. Winning or losing, we will try to get the best combination. The quicker we get the combination the better. Rotation will go much longer than this tour."
South Africa coach Corrie van Zyl
"You have to see the status of player before the World Cup. Injuries keep coming on. We will try to rotate players so that the best 11-12 players are there at that time."
MS Dhoni concurs with van Zyl
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo