India will be looking to take the lead for the first time in the five-match series when they take on South Africa at Rajkot after pulling off an unlikely win against the Proteas in the second ODI.
Skipper MS Dhoni’s place in the side had come under immense scrutiny after a poor run of form saw him slip from his lofty standards but his match-winning unbeaten 92 will go a long way in silencing the critics.
Many felt the wicketkeeper-batsman had been culpable when India lost the first match by five runs, with Dhoni himself admitting that he was unable to fulfil his finisher’s role, but more than made up for it with a man-of-the-match performance at Indore as India managed to defend a below-par 247.
However, question marks still remain regarding the home side’s combination, with Ajinkya Rahane laying claim to Virat Kohli’s preferred position at number three.
A disastrous mix-up between the two led to Kohli being run out on 12, but Rahane did continue his good form with a 63-ball 51. It was the 27-year-old’s second consecutive fifty at number three.
Eyebrows were also raised at the exclusion of Amit Mishra, who was India’s stand out bowler in the first ODI, but 21-year-old all-rounder Axar Patel took three crucial wickets to ensure Mishra’s absence was not felt.
Harbhajan Singh also took two wickets but was expensive as he gave away 51 runs in his 10 overs.
South Africa, on the other hand, will be raring to go after they threw away the chase in the second ODI, going from 134-2 to 225 all out.
What will be of particularly worry to AB de Villiers will be the casual way in which his batsmen threw away their wickets when seemingly being in control of the match.
The Indians bowlers, while maintaining tight line and lengths, had to do little but wait as the South African batsmen threw away their wickets in an attempt to play their way out of trouble.
The umpiring has been questioned in the series so far by India but it was they who benefited from some poor officiating this time around as Farhaan Behardien was inexplicably given caught behind off Harbhajan, despite the bowler not even joining in to Dhoni’s polite enquiry. That wicket effectively ended the match as a contest but the Proteas should never have let it get to that point in the first place.
With neither side being particularly impressive so far, momentum and the lead are both up for grabs in this crucial tie.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2015.
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