Sunday, October 25, 2015
Start time 1330 local (0800GMT)
It could not have been set up any better. On the eve of the most anticipated Test series in the 2015-16 season, the entrees have proven as appetising as anyone would have wanted to. The ODI series locked at 2-2 and Wankhede Stadium to host the decider. A bilateral series can never claim to command the attention of a major tournament but if there is a situation where it can hold its own, this is it.
The drama has ebbed and flowed but unlike a World Cup, where teams take on different opposition, this narrative is about the same teams and their journey against each other. South Africa started strongly when they won the T20 series and the first two ODIs and threatened to pull the carpet from under India’s feet but the hosts finally showed they would not be tripped up. They tweaked their team composition and dominated in their own conditions to mount a comeback. The momentum now lies with them.
As a result, India have reason to believe they hold the advantage but South Africa will not want their early success to be squandered. Like many touring teams, they have hit the speedbumps – they have been hit by their first injuries, had to search for replacements and try to play to the same standard as the one they showed off when they started. If they can get up to that level again, they could pull off a coup and India know that. They will be wary of being outgunned on their own turf and have reason to throw their full arsenal at South Africa to ensure the visitors don’t walk away with all the loot on offer so far.
(last five completed games, most recent first)
South Africa LWLWW
In the spotlight
Both India and South Africa are led by inspirational leaders and the captains can be expected to take centre stage in the finale. MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers have both already made big statements in the series; de Villiers’ bigger in numbers terms. His century in the series opener anchored the only total over 300 and his heroic hundred in the fourth match reminded India that it’s never over while he is around. Dhoni’s unbeaten 92 was a warning. It added late impetus to a total that was going nowhere and uplifted a team headed the same way. Whatever the pair bring to the party next will be worth keeping an eye on, especially if either is batting at the end of the innings.
But the last ten overs have not been as raucous as we have previously known them to be and that will only make for more intriguing viewing. The new playing conditions allow for a fifth fielder outside the circle which has demanded caution and more careful placement and changed the end of the innings from a gratuitous slog-fest into a period that demands more of a strategic approach and both batsmen and bowlers are still trying to figure out the most effective way forward.
The three-spinner approach is working for India and they are likely to stick with it which means any changes to their attack will be in the seam department. Left-armer S Aravind could come in for Mohit Sharma. Shikhar Dhawan’s struggles may make room for Ambati Rayudu and a shuffle in the line-up.
India: (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Mohit Sharma/S Aravind
Forced changes because of injuries to JP Duminy and Morne Morkel threw South Africa off balance but they do not have too many options to put that right. Hashim Amla was not too enthused about Morkel’s chances. “I don’t think he’s fit enough,” Amla said. “He bowled in the nets today but we’ll take a call tomorrow.”
In case Morkel recovers from his quad strain, he will likely play in place of either allrounder Chris Morris or second spinner Aaron Phangiso, who could be dispensed with if Duminy’s replacement Dean Elgar is ready to play. Elgar will provide a part-time spin option and could also replace out-of-form David Miller, which could mean uncapped Khaya Zondo and reserve seamer Kyle Abbott do not get a game in the series.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 Dean Elgar/David Miller, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Morne Morkel/Aaron Phangiso, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
The weather is going to be as hot as it has been throughout the series with temperatures at around 36 degrees and high humidity.
Stats and Trivia
- This is South Africa’s fifth bilateral series in India. They have lost three of the previous four and drew one, a decade ago in 2005. South Africa have won six out of 15 matches in those previous four series
- The last time India lost a bilateral ODI series at home was almost three years ago, when they were defeated 2-1 by Pakistan. They have since won five successive home series against England, Australia, West Indies (2) and Sri Lanka
“He (JP Duminy) adds great balance to the team with his offspin as well so it has changed things a bit in the team, but that’s what you have a squad for. No big series is ever won on 11 players so we have about 15 players who are going to be there at different times. This is one of those times for us.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.