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The Preview by Sriram Veera
February 26, 2010
The Big Picture
India have made the challenge of accomplishing their first clean sweep against South Africa much harder by resting regular openers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. Their absence means India will line up at Motera on Saturday without seven of their first-choice XI.
South Africa will be relieved to not have to deal with the openers but they still have puzzles in their own game to solve. They were soundly beaten in Gwalior and got close in the first ODI only because of Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell's performances - with the bat. Their batting order, apart from AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis, hasn't pulled its weight. They will hope Hashim Amla can build on the momentum he showed in a cameo in the second ODI but, in the absence of Graeme Smith, much depends on Herschelle Gibbs.
It's not just their batting, though, that has been a cause of worry. The bowlers have been a let down as well. The fast bowlers have gone for pace and erred in line and length and have leaked runs on flat pitches. Surprisingly, for a team that prides itself on preparation, South Africa haven't bowled many cutters or slower ones to make batsmen fight that little extra bit to find their timing.
The Indian seamers have had their problems too but have been shored up by slower bowlers such as Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan, who have succeeded in choking runs in the middle overs.
Form guide (last five completed games, most recent first)India WWLWW
Watch out for...
Dinesh Kartik: He played well in the second ODI but fell attempting another pull against a delivery outside off stump. He got out in the similar fashion in Jaipur and faulty shot selection has often been Karthik's undoing in the past. There is no question about his talent as a batsman - he has nearly all the shots in the book. Saturday offers another chance for him to get to a big score but will he be able to exercise self control?
Hashim Amla: He is a classy, stylish batsman in rich form. Of late, in Tests, he has combined grace with steely determination with successful results. Amla averages 46.42 in 23 ODIs at a strike rate of almost 85. He has enough talent to become a good ODI player as well and the third ODI gives him a chance to cement his place.
India have rested several players and have brought in the likes of M Vijay, Rohit Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun. With three of India's first-choice openers - Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir - missing, Vijay is in line for an ODI debut.
India (probable) 1 M Vijay 2 Dinesh Karthik, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Sreesanth, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Sudeep Tyagi.
JP Duminy has headed home to South Africa because of a finger injury sustained in Gwalior, opening up a spot in the middle order. It's a toss up between Loots Bosman and Albie Morkel, who could get the nod because he provides a bowling option.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 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 Van der Merwe, 11 Charl Langeveldt.
Pitch and conditions
"There's not going to be much grass and a score of 250-260 would be a good total," Dhiraj Parsana, the curator, said. The toss could prove crucial as dew is expected to play a big role later in the contest. "Over the last two days the dew fall has been quite heavy because of clear skies and little wind. If it's windy it drives away the dew." The curator said a run-fest was unlikely and there would be something in for the bowlers. If so, it would make for an interesting change from the high-scoring games that have become the norm in India.
Stats and trivia
"The bowlers are quite young, so it is pretty tough for them coming out here and bowling to some of the best players in the world. I think the most important thing for our young bowlers is to learn and I think they did that."
AB de Villiers looks on the bright side of the pasting handed out in Gwalior
"It is great to have a lot of young players in the side and it is a good opportunity for them to prove their mettle. The more these players respond in a pressure situation the better for Indian cricket."
India coach Gary Kirsten isn't too concerned that India are missing many of their experienced players
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala