Sunday, October 18, 2015
Start time 1330 local (0800GMT)
Now we have a series. Although India have competed, it has taken them four matches to actually win one and to remind South Africa this tour has only just begun, and that there is still a long way to go. The one-way traffic has stopped and hopefully, the ping-pong has begun.
Although MS Dhoni was around even before the second ODI, he was mostly being criticised for his bowling plans and his contributions with the bat were minimal. But a game-changing 92 later, India's leader seems to be back, and it seems only natural that his men will follow.
South Africa would have been anticipating this. They knew the bubble would burst, that both India and Dhoni would be back. But how they respond will be crucial. AB de Villiers has already instructed the batsmen to take responsibility for their defeat in the second ODI, which suggests South Africa are more inclined to do some self-examination than scruitinise the other side too much. They should not navel-gaze too much, but just enough to know that what let them down in Indore was the same thing that has often let them down before - a soft middle order.
India will also want some improvement from the batsmen, especially for the likes of Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina to build on what have been fairly consistent, solid starts. The hosts' end game though, will be to take the lead for the first time on this tour.
(last five completed games most recent first)
South Africa LWWLW
In the spotlight
Harbhajan Singh would not have played in this series if not for the injury to R Ashwin, but now he has his chance to re-establish himself in the ODI set-up. He made a good start by taking two important wickets in Indore and bowling spells filled with flight to eat into South Africa's subconscious. Harbhajan mainly played during a time when South African batsmen struggled against spin, and he will be looking to prey on even the slightest weakness from the opposition.
It has not gone unnoticed to the Indian media that Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are being outbowled by Kagiso Rabada. One reporter even asked bowling coach Charl Langeveldt whether he was concerned about his premier pacemen. However, while Rabada may be stealing the headlines, Steyn has been the one setting the tone and Morkel, who is with Shaun Pollock to lengthen his run-up and chance his shoulder positioning, has been making life awkward for the India batsmen. It is unlikely to bee too long before either seamer reclaims the mantle Rabada has poached.
The three changes India made ahead of the second game worked well for them, and they may consider keeping the same winning XI. That would mean no room for Amit Mishra, who may consider himself unlucky to miss out, and another chance for the misfiring Shikhar Dhawan. An alternative would be to promote Rahane to the opening berth and create room for another player lower down, but that may be more tinkering than India think is worth the trouble for now.
India: (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane 4 Virat Kohli, 5 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
South Africa's only consideration will be whether to give David Miller another chance or opt for an all-round option in Chris Morris. Kyle Abbott, Khaya Zondo and Aaron Phangiso are likely to remain on the bench.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 David Miller/Chris Morris, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
Another run-fest has been promised, but as we saw in Indore, that does not always mean it will materialise. The surface in Rajkot is fairly dry, and there is no dew expected. Of larger concern, security has been beefed up after a political activist Hardik Patel issued a threat
to block the teams' way to the stadium because of unhappiness over the allocation of tickets to different communities.
Stats and Trivia The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium has only hosted one ODI before - a high-scoring game between England and India, in January 2013, which England won by nine runs. Virat Kohli has gone 12 ODI innings without a half-century to make 2015 the leanest of his fifty-over career so far. In 17 games, Kohli averages just 28.64, the lowest he has averaged in a calendar year since his debut in 2008. Despite David Miller's lean run, which has seen him go 13 innings without an ODI half-century, 2015 has bee his best year as an international cricketer. He has played 21 ODIs and averages 47.71.
"If I have conditions on offer I would swing the ball a lot than the rest of the bowlers."
India seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent