Here we are. Back where it all began.
Exactly seven weeks ago, India's tour to South Africa began with the (later-than-usual) New Year's Test
. The first day saw South Africa bowled out for 286 and India finish on 28 for 3. If nothing else, it promised a fiery, competitive clash, with two teams desperate to outdo each other, more desperate than usual because of the recent history between them.
South Africa scars from their tour to India were fresh and they hoped to heal them with revenge pitches, full of pace and bounce that would hurt and humiliate India. Instead, they only got one surface in the three Tests that they truly enjoyed, and it was at Newlands, where they find themselves again now, at the end of a tour that has not gone the way the hosts wanted.
After their win in the second Test, there was talk of 12-nil as South Africa sought complete domination over India. Instead it is 7-4 the other way, and despite losing the Test series, India will be the happier side, whatever happens in the deciding T20. They've done what Ravi Shastri promised they would and found home comforts in foreign conditions, with their top order all in good form and success for their spinners. For India, the final match should not matter. They've already done more than expected.
For South Africa, it matters a great deal. Victory in what they are calling a "final" will give them a major boost after they lost several players to injury over the course of the series and a large chunk of their confidence.
Defeat in the final Test with that series won was not the end of the world, but it was the start of a spiral that saw South Africa's "Vision 2019," fall out of focus and then completely blur. Their ODI side needs work and their T20 team may have showed what kind of work. The younger players, particularly Lungi Ngidi, Heinrich Klaasen and Junior Dala, have stood up even as the seniors have faded and though South Africa's depth remains an area of concern, they do have players worth investing in, especially if they provide a return at Newlands.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WLWWL
In the spotlight
It's David Miller's
turn to come under scrutiny as a senior batsman whose contributions do not match his reputation. Miller played in five of the six ODIs and only managed a top score of 39, and has been dismissed in single-figures in both T20s. These white-ball matches have only emphasised that South Africa need players they can rely on in crunch situations and while Miller's immense talent provides some reassurance, they will need big numbers from him as well as the World Cup draws closer.
For the final time, Virat Kohli
will be India's player to watch, not least because he needs less than 20 runs to become only the third batsman in the world to 2000 T20I runs. Kohli has already led India to their most successful tour of South Africa, with a Test win and their first ODI series win in the country. Whatever happens in the final match, he can be proud, but he will be that much prouder if he can return home with two trophies instead of one.
With a series win front and centre of their minds, South Africa may not be able to give Christiaan Jonker an opportunity and could stick with the same batting line-up. A change may come in the attack, which could feature two specialist spinners. If South Africa opt for both Tabraiz Shamsi and Aaron Phangiso, Dane Paterson may have to miss out.
South Africa: 1 Reeza Hendricks, 2 JJ Smuts, 3 JP Duminy (capt), 4 David Miller, 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Junior Dala, 10 and 11 two out of Dane Paterson, Tabraiz Shamsi and Aaron Phangiso
Had India won at SuperSport Park, they would have wanted to use this match to trial some new combinations but now they need to field the XI they believe can win them the series. The team that lost had one change from the team that won at the Wanderers with Shardul Thakur replacing Jasprit Bumrah, who was out with an abdominal niggle. That spot may be the only one India change, with the possibility of Axar Patel or - if he has recovered from the hand injury that kept him out of the first two T20Is - Kuldeep Yadav coming in as second spinner on the surface most likely to take turn.
India: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Manish Pandey, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Yuzvendra Chahal, 11 Jasprit Bumrah/Shardul Thakur/Axar Patel/Kuldeep Yadav
Pitch and conditions
The change in altitude will require the biggest adjustment from the players, who will need to be wary that mishits are unlikely to sail for six at the coast and they could end up caught on the boundary instead. Still, the Newlands strip is expected to have plenty of runs in it, with Farhaan Behardien calling it "not far from a Highveld wicket". It will be a cool day in Cape Town, with temperatures below 20 degrees and a small chance of some rain, which could negate spin.
Stats and trivia
- After the Indian wristspinners claimed 33 wickets between across the six ODIs, Yuzvendra Chahal has only managed one wicket in the two T20s so far.
- Virat Kohli needs just 17 runs to become the first India batsman to 2000 T20I runs.
"We came unstuck but we are sticking together as a unit. Tomorrow is a massive opportunity for us to turn it around. To win two out of the three series against a strong Indian unit, that's a big plus. We went over to India, we beat them in the ODIs 3-2, in the T20 series two-nil, we lost the Test. It's basically a reversal but we have the opportunity to go one up on them tomorrow. Everybody is upbeat."
Farhaan Behardien sees the final T20 as an opportunity for South Africa to end the India series on a major high
"Whenever you're playing in the first six overs, you have to play your shots. When you have a lot of batting depth in the middle order you need to play really well in [the first] six overs. When you have a good middle order they can always execute later on, so you need to take a chance [in the Powerplay]."
Suresh Raina explains his high-risk approach while batting at No. 3
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent