South Africa v India, 5th ODI, Centurion January 22, 2011

See-saw series set for decider


Match Facts

January 23, Centurion
Start time 10.00 (8.00 GMT, 13.30 IST)

Big Picture

The curious case of Virat Kohli keeps getting interesting. Prior to the series his case was distilled into this emotive question: How can you drop him from the playing eleven when he is in such good form? Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Gautam Gambhir return to take the top three. Yuvraj Singh is the best part-time spinner and can win a game with the bat, Yusuf Pathan's explosiveness will be vital lower down, and Suresh Raina can potentially get going right from the start and is more suited to the lower order, in Indian conditions, than Kohli.

Or so it seemed before this series. With Yusuf clicking in one game and Yuvraj too hitting a fifty, apart from his bowling, the pressure has escalated on Raina. If there is Yusuf and Yuvraj for power hitting, would it better to blood an in-form Kohli ahead of Raina? That's the thought Kohli will strive to strengthen in this decider and something that Raina will try to kill.

The series itself hangs on a knife's edge. India had just won three random games against South Africa in South Africa before this series and are on verge of something special. For their part, South Africa have hung on, despite threatening to implode in all the games, and pushed the series to a decider. The weather might play spoil sport, though, with the forecast predicting thunderstorms on the match day.

South Africa's World-Cup puzzles too are falling in place. JP Duminy has shown that he has the temperament to lead the lower order, Faf du Plessis hinted at a solid temperament, and Morne Van Wyk, with an accomplished performance in the Twenty20 game, is putting pressure on Colin Ingram. Smith has had a torrid time in the last two games and though he is an established player, a good show at Centurion won't hurt him. They have been shy to give Imran Tahir any exposure in this series, probably preferring to keep him hidden till the World Cup.

Morne Morkel has been simply outstanding in this series, extracting bounce from sluggish tracks in the last two games and indicating he might be a force to reckon with even on traditional slow-and-low subcontinental tracks. The ball to remove Yusuf Pathan - a full length delivery that seamed away at the last instant - in the fourth ODI also showcased that he is just not a hit-the-deck short of length bowler but someone who thinks a lot about his game and has the full repertoire.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe has been in rich form though one still has to wait and watch how he performs in the subcontinental conditions. He does have a good off cutter but can he continue to churn out good performances even in the World Cup?

Form guide

South Africa: WLLWW
India: LWWLW

Players to watch out for…

Graeme Smith: He looked a shadow of the man who scored a confident 77 in the second ODI. And it just can't be put down to the pressure of a brittle lower order as he has struggled to put bat to ball in the last two games. He has stabbed inside the line, groped outside the line, stumbled forward, and has had a horror time. Will he get back to form with a confident knock in the last game?

Suresh Raina: The selection sword dangles over him. The pressure is truly on. He got to a start in the third ODI but threw it away with a wild slog against Morne, just as the game entered the final lap. He combusted cheaply in the last match, rushing out too early to be left stranded. Meanwhile, Kohli has been marching from strength to strength. Until now, Raina had the clear upper hand as he was more suited to the lower order and his case only strengthened when you throw in his off breaks into the equation. But he can't afford any more slip-ups.

Team news

India (probable): 1 Parthiv Patel, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Piyush Chawla/ Ashish Nehra, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Zaheer Khan

South Africa (probable): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Morne Van Wyk/ Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Johan Botha, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Wayne Parnell/Robin Peterson, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Stats and trivia

  • du Plessis' 60 in the third ODI made him the first South African batsman to score a half century on debut against India. The previous best was 43 by Adrian Kuiper in 1991.


"We have done well with the ball in this series. We have generally fielded well. The intensity has been good. We are excited to go to Pretoria. The teams have been trading blows for two months now and it has been a competitive series"
Smith is excited ahead of the decider

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 24, 2011, 7:31 GMT

    in any format of the cricket if your middle order so fregile as the indians are playing in the recent south africa one -day series than it will be difficult to match up in big series like world cup & give the best perfomance to compete with other is not that easy as anybody says in the press conference that in india wickets are different so will come back into good batting touch with our this failed middle order player, as other squad are already doing very good home work against the opponents & their weakpoint.& never the less allthe teams are trying to raise their own perfomance , so it is not that easy as somebody speaks about some positive points & the reflection comes as the same. so my point of view we have to change our batting order to copile the 50 over match, 1)viru2)gauti3)virat 4)sachin5)dhoni6)pathan7)yuvi8)bhajji8)zaheer9)pravin10)munaf viru,gauti

  • Coolest on January 23, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    @DesiFan, that is as perfect our team can get for the world cup. I bet everyone here would agree with us on this : #1.Sehwag, #2.Tendulkar, #3.Gambhir, #4.Kohli, #5.Dhoni, #6.Yuvraj, #7.Y Pathan, #8.Harbhajan, #9.Zaheer, #10.P.Kumar, #11.Munaf

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2011, 10:20 GMT

    @camel_sweep: " Forget this series, bring him back to the middle-order, and give him all the support and confidence. He is bound to roar again" .....has he "roared" even once in his career except for against zimbabwe or other weak teams in ODIs ??

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    I think you got to change the comments beneath Kohli's photo: irresponsible to responsible!! ;)

  • Diwakar on January 23, 2011, 7:54 GMT

    Why Dhoni is so much against Ashwin??? Is he doing a Strategy (Not to expose Ashwin before the world cup) or doing Politics (If he plays Ashwin, he might be a competitor to Bhaji). I think Bhaji is also playing his part in the seletion of Ashwin.... I hope Dhoni is doing a Strategy rather than playing politics and we need to wait and see until world cup starts to know what is he really up to........

  • Jerome on January 23, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    I strongly feel if India is to Win the World Cup both Suresh Raina, Virat Kholi and R Ashwin should definitely be in the Playing squad. The Choice for the all rounder spinner should be made between one of the two Yuvraj Singh/Yusuf Pathan.My Playing squad would be 1-Virendra Sewag 2-Gautam Gambhir 3-Tendulkar 4-Virat Kholi 5-Yusuf pathan/Yuvraj Singh 6-Suresh Raina 7-Dhoni 8-Harbajan Singh 9-R Ashwin 10-Praveen Kumar 11-Zaheer khan. Without doubt Suresh raina wil shine in Asian pitches and R Ashwin is a very attacking bowler who can bring the run rate down and apply pressue on the opponents and also he can bat a bit.Yuvraj Singh like Pathan cannot be trusted with consistency.Kholi with his form should definitely be in the squad and can play an anchor role like tendulkar for the team.

  • Nitin on January 23, 2011, 7:53 GMT

    to all those cribbing about dhoni's poor form..remember two things 1) his form is not that bad as it seems..he scored 25 in first match,was looking good,but unfortunately got run 2nd match he made a very very important 38 in a pressure situation 2)a player needs to contribute in one way or other..remember his brilliant stumpings in previous matches????? superb captaincy??

    what to do you guys want? remove dhoni and replace with parthiv or saha?? who will win matches for us with his impeccable captaincy then...?

  • karthik on January 23, 2011, 7:42 GMT

    why is everybody behind dhoni exclusion ,no indian captain could ever win by 1 run where the match is almost lost , u can say he is lucky , i would say good cricketing brain , using the best possible option at the tense moment , remember whatever he touched has turned atleast silver (if not gold ).so i dont mind he has an average of 10 but still makes india win 80 % of games .he knows best at the crunch situation rather than many captain right now ,

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2011, 7:29 GMT

    why no chances for sreesanth... can we call it high time politics in indian team for favourtism to munaf & nehra...

  • Utpal on January 23, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    Virat Kohli is certainly a future prospect for India. Currently he is playing better than anyone in the ODI Team and even when Sachin, Viru and Gambhir return , he should be returned. My original faith in Rohit Sharma is starting to erode very fast. This guy is certainly not composed just look at how many gaalis he gave to J P Duminy after getting him out, similarly his expression after being given out LBW. He may have talent but where is the performance? I also fail to understand why Indian Management favors Nehra much. From his bowling I can see that although he tries hard he is not much effective these days, Batsmen score easily off him. Sreesanth should replace him.

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