India put up a good show in the Dharamsala T20I but were outplayed in the must-win Cuttack fixture. Their seamers blew the Men in Blue away for a paltry 92 – their second lowest total in this format.
Eden Gardens, however, gives an opportunity to the team to salvage some pride and get much needed momentum before the ODIs begin. The MS Dhoni-led unit must tick the following boxes in the City of Joy as they take on South Africa in the third and last match.
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Bat second: While the toss is something beyond a skipper’s control, India need to bat second. For starters, it would be a break from the pattern followed in the first T20Is. The hosts batted first in the two matches and didn’t get the result in their favour. Dharamsala was a good show with the bat – scoring 199 – but Cuttack turned out to be an embarrassment.
Pattern apart, no total is a good total for the formidable South African unit. With enough firepower and stability in their ranks, the Proteas have what it takes to chase 200-plus and even those tricky 140-plus totals. Bowling first will also give the batsmen a target to pace their innings. India, in the past, have been successful chasers and the ‘A’ side too won the game by chasing South Africa’s total.
Start well: India have had disappointing starts of 22 and 28 in the first T20Is. It’s important that Shikhar Dhawan chips in and stitches a fluent stand with Rohit Sharma – who is in top touch at the moment. If India start well, then their middle-order issues remain sorted and the likes of Dhoni and Raina would get a platform to launch an assault from.
Run better: Run-outs, especially in this format, can take the momentum and game away. Not only do they result in a wicket but force the batsman to be more cautious. The 1.8s don’t become doubles and easy doubles become cautiously run singles. Every run can have a say in this format.
India have already lost four wickets – two in the first, two in the second – to run-outs this series. Dhoni too was not pleased with the communication in the middle and wants his batsmen to run well between the wickets. Out of those four dismissals, three were in the top-order and pushed India on the back-foot early in the innings.
Shuffle: The batting order is a matter of concern for the hosts. As of now, it’s way too dependent on the top-four because the no.5, 6 and 7 are yet to fire on all cylinders. A possible change can be pushing Suresh Raina to no.4 and allow either Dhoni or Ambati Rayudu/Ajinkya Rahane to come in at no.4 and inject stability if the top-order disappoints.
Mishra for Axar: Axar Patel’s faster-ones are not doing any good for India in the series. As it was seen in the first two T20Is, Ashwin’s loop and deception kept the visitors under check. Harbhajan, too, bowled a tight spell with the same approach.
With the ball coming at a decent pace, the South Africans have dealt Axar with ease. Mishra can well be the game-changer with his flight and loop. Yes, it can be a risky move with South Africa heavy on left-handers in the middle order but worth a gamble. The leggie has played enough T20 cricket to know what’s the right approach for this format.