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regular-article-logo Thursday, 20 June 2024

T20I series: Target for India to tick boxes; clearer skies expected for crunch Johannesburg clash 

With the opener washed out and Proteas winning Tuesday’s rain-affected game in Gqeberha to lead 1-0, avoiding a series defeat is the only thing Suryakumar Yadav and his teammates can do at present

Our Bureau Calcutta Published 14.12.23, 07:06 AM
India players during the second T20I on Tuesday.

India players during the second T20I on Tuesday. Twitter

India, at best, can share the series with South Africa if they win the third and final T20I at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Thursday. With the opener washed out and the Proteas winning Tuesday’s rain-affected game in Gqeberha to lead 1-0, avoiding a series defeat is the only thing Suryakumar Yadav and his teammates can do at present.

The first thing India would want though is for rain to stay away.

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On Tuesday, their innings couldn’t even be completed as the drizzle in Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) became heavier to force players off the field with three balls left in the first innings. Once South Africa came on to chase a revised target, the conditions had become tougher for the bowlers as even an inexperienced opening pair of Matthew Breetzke and Reeza Hendricks scored at will.

The weather in Johannesburg on Thursday is expected to be partly cloudy with clear skies for the most part. Chances of rain aren’t nil, but also not something to bother both teams or the fans. Given the situation they are in with a 1-0 lead, the Proteas though shouldn’t be too annoyed on coming across another rain interruption on Thursday.

Their bowlers were inconsistent in spite of the firm-bounce wicket and some seam movement on offer in the previous game. But the enterprising top three in their batting line-up, along with the power-hitting capacity of David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen, certainly keeps the hosts well-placed for a series win.

At the same time, pressure will be on the Indian bowlers because the Wanderers track is expected to favour batsmen much more, with least assistance likely for the spinners.

It does remain to be seen if India make a tweak or two in their bowling attack. Agreed, the bowling wasn’t up to the mark on Tuesday, but such were the conditions that the likes of Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar and Kuldeep Yadav could be given a benefit of doubt.

It seems the pace trio of Mohammed Siraj, who was a tad luckless in the previous game, Arshdeep and Mukesh would continue to form the pace attack as Deepak Chahar (who had gone home for personal reasons during the Australia T20Is) is yet to join the squad. Bringing the in-form leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi in though is one option India can look at.

Batting-wise, captain Su­rya and Rinku Singh continuing with their impactful perfo­rm­ances certainly bodes well for India, keeping in mind next year’s T20 World Cup. Openers Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, both out for nought in the second T20I, would obviously be itching to come up with a significant contribution in this must-win clash.

For Jaiswal, Tuesday’s game can be viewed as one rare off day, but Gill hasn’t qu­ite been able to replicate his ODI batting in the T20Is lately. He hasn’t found the going to be too easy in the shortest format.

Even if Gill doesn’t get a big one on Thursday, he should feel a lot better about regaining a bit of rhythm with a few strokes.

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