South Africa vs India | Wednesday 11 December | Centurion, Pretoria | 13:30
Although the Indian side showed improvement in the second encounter, the result was still much the same. Changes to India’s bowling attack made a difference once South Africa’s openers were accounted for, the playing surface was more to their liking and the away side were not lacking in support. However, they lost the match by 134-runs, only seven fewer than the first ODI. That’s two relative thrashings in a row for the world’s number one side and although the series is decided, the final ODI will be about pride. Unfortunately for the visitors, it won’t get any easier at Centurion. The Proteas have executed their plans to perfection, and the Pretoria pitch is likely to be a lot quicker than Durban’s sticky wicket.
South Africa 11/20
The opening pair of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla has been somewhat of a revelation. With stalwart Graeme Smith forced out of the side by the young de Kock, the two have put on consecutive +150-run opening stands, with consecutive centuries from South Africa’s newest batting sensation. While de Kock is made for the limelight, Amla continues to go about becoming one of South Africa’s greatest batsman of all-time as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. He became the quickest to 4000 runs in ODIs in the last match, breaking the record set by Viv Richards, and it is a record Amla is embarrassed to have. He can’t conceivably compare himself to Richards, but the stats don’t lie. Dale Steyn has been rather vocal about the Indian batsmen being frightened of the South African pace attack, and while statements about their mental state are subjective, it is clear that the Indians have struggled. MS Dhoni continues to state that the Indian batsmen have no technical frailties against the short ball, but he has conceded that they have not played it well. Whether it be shot selection or inability, they are in for another test of their pace capacity in Pretoria.
Battered by over 100-runs in both ODIs, this is not a position that the Indian side is used to. They were thrown under the proverbial bus by their own board, the schedule not lending itself to adequate preparation, and with the short, tight nature of this tour, have little time to actually acclimatise before they leave again. There were, however, improvements in the second ODI. After conceding 194-runs in 35 overs, they managed to pull the Proteas back significantly, picking up wickets and slowing the scoring. This has been something the Proteas have battled with in the past, especially against good spinners. If India are able to break South Africa’s opening partnership early, they will be confident that they can limit the Proteas in the middle overs. Their batting has been an extreme let down. Usually India’s strongest feature, their powerful batting line-up has been put through the paces by the South African seamers. They will need a vastly improved showing here but looking at the previous two fixtures, it is difficult to see from where.
Centurion is usually a lively wicket, with pace and bounce aplenty. Despite being one of the quicker wickets in the country, it can also offer a lot to the batsmen if bowlers fail on their lengths. The ball comes onto the bat nicely and the outfield is usually also quick. India haven’t won at the ground since 2001, but South Africa’s recent form here has not been great either.
BEST: Top South African Batsman, Hashim Amla 11/4
Centurion must be the Peaceful Warrior’s favourite ground. He has scored plenty of runs here in the past and a century against India in 2011 gives me loads of confidence. He is in fine form and has the perfect partner at the other end to offset his more defensive sensibilities. Back Hashim.
VERDICT: South Africa 11/20
In my opinion, India’s best chance to record a victory in this series was in Durban. That has come and gone and looking at the nature of Centurion, it looks as though the same problems that have troubled India in the last two matches will come back to haunt them again. Back the Proteas for a resounding series victory.
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