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India aim to seal series, SA pray for AB magic

Virat Kohli

Calcutta/Johannesburg: Having got most things correct in the shorter version, a dominant India would look to clinch their first-ever series win in South Africa when they take on the beleaguered Proteas in the fourth ODI at the Wanderers on Saturday.

Barring a few moments in the first ODI in Durban, India practically annihilated the South Africans in the second and third matches to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the six-match series.

With captain Virat Kohli in imperious form and wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav bamboozling batsmen repeatedly, India have been all over South Africa after the Test-leg of the tour, and without doubt, this is their best opportunity to pile on the hosts’ agony and seal their maiden ODI series victory in South African shores.

South Africa have not lost an ODI series at home since losing 1-2 to Pakistan back in 2013. Additionally, they have never lost on ‘Pink Day’, celebrated to create awareness and collect funds for breast cancer.

“If I am right, no other team has come to South Africa and won a one-day series. To us, we are on the brink of it. If we do it, it will be really huge. There is always a first time and we hope this is it,” said bowling coach Bharat Arun.

“When we came to South Africa, we said this is going to be our home for next two-and-a-half months. We are going to identify with the culture and be a part of the country.”

For the battered Proteas, AB de Villiers’s return — after he was declared fit to play post recovering from a finger injury — is something they are banking on to keep the series alive. Should South Africa win Saturday’s ‘Pink ODI’, De Villiers has to perform and play a match-defining knock. No second thoughts on that.

Under the circumstances, De Villiers is the tonic that South Africa require to deal with India’s wrist spinners. Besides, he has a staggering record on Pink Days.

In the five ‘Pink ODIs’ to date, the former captain has struck 450 runs at an average of 112.5, the highlight being his record-shattering 149 off 44 balls against West Indies three years ago. His overall record at the Wanderers is remarkable to say the least, averaging over 100 from 11 matches so far.

But Saturday’s game brings along with a completely different context. First of all, India have smashed South Africa so far in the series, while one is yet to be sure of the rhythm De Villiers is in after a not so successful Test series against the Indians.

De Villiers did manage a couple of crucial half-centuries in the Tests, but India’s bowlers never quite allowed him to break free and score at will. India’s bowlers are charged up, as it’s rather De Villiers’s test to counter Chahal and Yadav.

As for India’s batting, they aren’t that concerned especially when captain Kohli is going great guns, but there may still be some issues they would want to address. The middle-order fell away slightly in the previous game at Newlands, till Buvneshwar Kumar assisted Kohli in helping India get past 300.

Match starts: 4.30pm.

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