Historic series win beckons India
Match FactsJanuary 21, Port Elizabeth
Start time 14:30 (12.30 GMT, 18.00 IST)
India are on the verge of a rare series win in a land where they have their worst win-loss record. Prior to this series, they had just won just three ODIs against South Africa in South Africa. It was that bleak. The start to this series hinted at more of the same as they capitulated against bounce in Durban. However, they bounced back in style, with a little bit of help from South Africa, to go 2-1 up.
The last pieces of the World Cup puzzle are slowly falling in place too. Yusuf Pathan sealed the No. 7 slot with a violent knock, and Virat Kohli continues to put pressure for a spot in the top order with impressive performances. It's the opening position that seems a bit wasted on players who aren't in the World Cup squad. And neither M Vijay nor Rohit Sharma has seized their chances. Vijay has combusted cheaply and Rohit has looked out of the depth. Will India replace one of them with Parthiv Patel in the next game? Rohit might stay for he offers an extra option with his offbreaks.
South Africa have lost two in a row now but there have been a couple of positives: JP Duminy played two responsible knocks and is beginning to show that he can lead the lower order through crisis situations and Faf du Plessis showed promise. He played a responsible and restrained knock in the last ODI and will have two more games to show his hitting prowess. Albie Morkel, who was drafted in for the last two games, has since been released from the squad, leaving South Africa without a suitable all-round option to replace the struggling Wayne Parnell. They may be forced to stop shielding legspinner Imran Tahir against India and give him a chance to prove his worth.
South Africa: LLWWL
Players to watch out for…
Hashim Amla has looked in great touch, and got off to great starts but has rarely converted them. He has paid the price for attacking all the time. If he can temper his approach and make more judicious shot selections, he can really boost this South African batting line-up.
Yuvraj Singh hit a half-century in the second ODI and was looking fluent in the third when he fell. There are enough indications that Yuvraj will play at No. 4 in the World Cup. One hour of his batting can win games for India, while his nagging slow bowling adds immense value in suitable conditions.
Team newsParthiv Patel, who came in as replacement for Sachin Tendulkar, might take M Vijay's opening slot. The Port Elizabeth pitch aids spin and Piyush Chawla, who is in India's World Cup squad, might get a game.
India (possible): 1 Parthiv Patel, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Piyush Chawla / Ashish Nehra, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Zaheer Khan
South Africa are likely to bring in Imran Tahir in the place of Wayne Parnell.
South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Johan Botha, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Wayne Parnell / Imran Tahir, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Stats and trivia
- At Newlands, Zaheer Khan became the 21st bowler to get 250 ODI wickets. He is the third left-arm seamer, after Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, and the fifth Indian to capture 250 or more. Harbhajan Singh is currently on 246
- Yusuf's 59 was the first half-century by an Indian No. 7 batsman South Africa. The previous best was 47, made by his brother Irfan
"South Africa have got a bit of problem with their selection issues. They must select seven coloured players out of 15. Their tail will be too long. They have a problem with the batting down the order."
Former South Africa batsman Peter Kirsten doesn't rate South Africa's chances in the World Cup
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo