3rd ODI: Indian top-order need to find form
Cape Town: Having levelled the five-match series with a thrilling one-run victory in the last game, an injury-hit India go into the third cricket one-dayer against South Africa here on Tuesday with the form of the top order batsmen continuing to be a worry.
The batting has come a cropper in both the matches so far and the visitors managed to pull off an incredible victory at the New Wanderers on Saturday mainly because of the efforts of the bowlers, especially pacer Munaf Patel.
The Indians have suffered a big jolt with Sachin Tendulkar returning home because of a hamstring injury, further weakening the batting line up which has plenty of talent but has not come to terms with the pacy tracks in South Africa yet.
Tendulkar`s injury has added to India`s cup of woes as three key players -- Virender Sehawag, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar -- have already been ruled out of the series due to injuries.
Thanks to some superb bowling, India managed to defend a low total of 190 in the second ODI and yet again the onus is on bowlers to deliver the goods for the team on a Newlands track which was expected to assist the quick bowlers.
India would look to pace duo of Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel to not only get wickets but to check the Proteas batsmen so that the batters have an easy job to do, in case they bat second.
Spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh has done his bit by putting the brake on the scoring in the middle of the rival innings and yet again he has to ensure that not many runs leak during that stage, which played a part in India`s series- levelling win at Johannesburg.
Batting has always been India`s strong point but the form of the batsmen in the ongoing series is a big disappointment.
With seniors missing from the ranks, the youngsters, who have actually done well in the recent past, have not been able to cope with the conditions.
The middle-order, except for Yuvraj Singh in the last game, has just not clicked. Suresh Raina nor Rohit Sharma, who are both regarded as highly talented players, are not even pale shadow of themselves although they contributed with the ball as part-timers.
Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh have scored a fifty each so far and India need one of these youngsters to play a big knock tomorrow if the visitors hope of taking lead.
Lack of a good start has also put pressure on the middle order and India`s problems have just compounded with Tendulkar`s absence and India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows the importance of Yuvraj in that situation.
"His (Yuvraj`s) role in the batting lineup is crucial. If we get good start then he can come and score quick runs and if we lose few wickets then he can control the game with a solid innings. He played very well in the match.”
"It is important that Yuvraj gets into good form. He is now a decent all-rounder for us as he also bowls a few overs," Dhoni said.
Diminutive wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel has been sent as Tendulkar`s replacement and it will be a big challenge for the left-hander to do the tough opening job in trying conditions, if he gets a chance tomorrow.
It`s time that Murali Vijay scores some runs to show his worth in the short format. He got into the side due to absence of both Sehwag and Gambhir but has not capitalised.
South African batsmen, specially the top-order, are in terrific form and an encore of the Johannesburg performance would be difficult for the Indian bowlers.
Hashim Amla, AB de villiers, JP Duminy are in good touch and captain Graeme Smith himself has struck form after a listless show in the drawn Test series.
It would require a really disciplined effort from Indian bowlers to nail the Proteas batsmen at home conditions.
Then India will also have to contend with the Proteas pace battery led by ferocious Dale Steyn.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, S Sreesanth.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Match starts 1800 hrs (IST).