Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
SL v AUS (1)
SA-W in ENG (1)
IRE v IND (1)
County DIV1 (4)
County DIV2 (3)
Faf du Plessis said South Africa's 22-run loss in Indore, which broke the team's series of wins across the T20Is and ODIs on their India tour, has given the home side "a sniff of a chance" to turn the tables. The five-match ODI series is tied 1-1 heading into the third game in Rajkot on Sunday but Du Plessis felt that neither team has played its best cricket so far.
"That's the most disappointing thing from a team perspective, that we had India, I suppose, against the rope," du Plessis said on the eve of the match. "Two-nil in the T20s and 1-0 in the ODIs, we had got some nice momentum behind [us]. But now, I think we have given them a little sniff. One-all in the series. They will be confident of winning again, but in saying that I don't think both teams have played their best cricket. We have both been firing at about 80%. [In the] previous game, their batting collapsed and so did ours. So, I think both teams will be looking to play some basic cricket."
One of the most crucial factors in South Africa's loss in Indore was the manner in which India's spinners dominated to defend a below-par total of 247. The visitors had been tied down by a clutch of wickets every time a partnership developed. Du Plessis said playing spin well had not been a concern so far on tour, but admitted South Africa had not been able to play themselves out of the squeeze applied by India's bowlers in Indore.
"I think we played the spinners really well. If I talk about the first game, the wicket definitely had more spin in the first innings, more tacky and we still managed to get 300-plus," he explained. "In the second game, we were in a position….130 for 2, we were cruising in the game and the spin wasn't an issue at all. But the nature of playing in these conditions is that if we do lose wickets, their bowlers are especially good because they squeeze you. They don't give a lot of singles, they don't give you any bad balls. So then for a period of time they came on top. And it's just a case of sitting and working through that to make that (momentum shift) to your side again. We had the game in our hand and we lost it and like I said, we'll learn from it."
Du Plessis stated the way South Africa's bowlers had allowed India to post 247 after reducing them to 124 for 6 was one of the areas of improvement for the side. He was also not happy with the manner in which they allowed MS Dhoni to break free and score 92 was a matter of concern.
"I think we can improve in most of the areas. Our bowling was really good to get them down 6 for 130, but to allow them to score 240-plus, it's not how you want to do," du Plessis said. "You want to close the game down. I think we played well into MS' hands there. There was almost pressure taken off from him because there was no more batting to bat with him; just knock around and be there till the end. And when he was on 60, he could really play nice, open, aggressive game. So I think we made error there to make it a bit easy for him. And when we batted, we were in a great position at 130 for 2, when myself, JP (Duminy) were batting. One of us should have batted through and won the game. So disappointing that lot of guys got the start but not one guy was there to make sure the team won the game."
Du Plessis also admitted to his own failure to carry on in Indore, where he fell to Axar Patel for 51 while trying to clear the cover fielder. Duminy and David Miller fell on either side of du Plessis' wicket and that period of play helped India seize the advantage. "I was very disappointed with the previous game. As a No. 3, your role is to get big scores. In one aspect it's nice to be getting runs and chipping in for the team at the start. But it's very important for me to make match-winning contributions and the fifty in the previous game wasn't that. So, if I get into that position, I will be hard on myself, be more disciplined and try and get the team over the line."