South Africa are less than 24 hours away from what could become groundhog day. After having conceded the ODI series, South Africa will lose the T20I series too if they don’t win at SuperSport Park, and they will be no closer to the answers to their questions about team balance and candidates for the future tournaments. And they will have to wait until mid-year to find out.
Their next limited-overs assignment will come in Sri Lanka, when South Africa hope to have put most of their World Cup puzzle together. Though the T20s have very little to do with that, they will have the more immediate effect that could spill over into what remains of a big summer. South Africa cannot afford to go into a series against Australia low on morale and probably shouldn’t because they won the Test series against India, but these defeats – their magnitude and their manner, will sting.
India have dominated since winning the Wanderers Test with a formula that just works. Their top three keep piling the runs on, Bhuvneshwar Kumar continues to impress and the spinners do the rest. They’ve even become adept at defending a total.
For South Africa to have any say in the series, they have to find a way of matching India in each of the areas. The experienced batsmen have to score runs, the inexperienced bowlers have to channel their discipline and whichever spinner plays has to become less of a target. But it is difficult to see all of that coming together in the space of a few days, especially given how hangdog South Africa appear to be. Perhaps all they’re doing is counting down, not to avoid groundhog day, but until this series is over.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: LWWLW
In the spotlight
With the Test series against Australia looming, Chris Morris will want to make a statement in an otherwise quiet summer if he wants to force himself into contention. Morris has neither batted nor bowled with the impact a player of his reputation should and in a sea of underperforming players, he will want to stand out. Morris scored 39 in the ODI series opener and his numbers have dwindled since. His bowling form isn’t encouraging either: he has only taken three wickets in the six limited-overs matches he’s played against India this summer.
Suresh Raina had the shots of a man who wants to play in the 2019 World Cup but was dismissed in a way that suggested he may not get there unless there is some focus behind his intent. He smacked two fours and a six off seven balls and then cleared his front leg aiming for the rope again but sent a leading edge back to the bowler. Raina will want more time in the middle as he looks to make his case for the World Cup.
The only changes South Africa could make to the batting line-up is the inclusion of uncapped batsman Christiaan Jonker, but it will have to be at the expense of one of their experienced players, so they might save him for Cape Town. Aaron Phangiso could get a look-in instead of Tabraiz Shamsi.
South Africa (probable): 1 Reeza Hendricks 2 Jon-Jon Smuts 3 JP Duminy (capt), 4 David Miller, 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Dane Paterson, 10 Junior Dala, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi/Aaron Phangiso
With India looking to close out the series after a strong performance in the opener, they are unlikely to make any changes.
India: (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Manish Pandey, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Jaydev Unadkat, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Pitch and conditions
It’s SuperSport Park groundsman Bryan Bloy’s last chance this summer to prepare a pitch the South African team are satisfied with. Despite winning the Test at this venue, South Africa complained about the slowness and turn in the surface and then went on to lose by nine wickets and eight wickets in the second and sixth ODI respectively. India’s spinners took 11 wickets in those two matches, so Bloy’s main challenge will be to create a surface that does not spin. South Africa will want a high-scoring surface with no turn if Bloy is to get into their good books by next summer. There is an 80% chance of afternoon thundershowers, which could delay the start of the match.
Stats and trivia
The only time India have lost a T20 against South Africa in South Africa was in March 2012, in Johannesburg.
David Miller has scored exactly 1000 T20 runs for South Africa.
“You are going to go through periods in your career, where you go through slumps, be it a senior player or a new player and unfortunately, throughout the series quite a few senior players have come up short, including myself.”
JP Duminy admitted South Africa’s experienced crop have left too much for their younger team-mates to do