Cape Town: India will have their sights set on an unprecedented 3-0 lead when they take on a South African team, which has quite literally fallen apart due to injury blows, in the third ODI of the six-match series, here tomorrow.
The visitors won the first two matches of the series in Durban and Centurion by six and nine wickets, respectively, dismantling the home side with consummate ease.
Twice previously, India has managed to win two ODIs in a bilateral series in South Africa — in 1992-93 and in 2010-11.
In the latter instance, the visitors shot into a 2-1 lead, only to lose the five-match series 3-2 in the end. They had also lost 5-2 in the other instance.
But given the hosts’ current travails, history repeating itself would be a major disaster for the Men in Blue.
This is because the Proteas are beset with injury problems. AB de Villiers was ruled out before the first ODI, Faf du Plessis before the second (both suffered finger injuries). And the list has only grown with Quinton de Kock (left wrist injury) ruled out before the third ODI.
A school of thought says young skipper Aiden Markram will give himself a second promotion in two matches. He had batted at no.4 in Durban (scoring 9 off 21 balls) and at no.3 in Centurion (scoring 8 of 11 balls).
The Proteas could also include more experienced Ferhaan Behardien to bolster the middle-order and leave out Khayelihle Zondo after his mixed debut outing on Sunday.
The other option for the hosts is to leave out David Miller, who has struggled against Yadav, accommodating both Behardien and Zondo instead.
In conclusion, South Africa will be keen to mix things up in the hope of countering the wrist-spin threat and make an impression with the bat in the hurting absence of de Villiers and du Plessis.
Also, Centurion saw another departure from the norm for the Proteas. Despite defeat in Durban, du Plessis was adamant that “two spinners didn’t fit into their team balance”.
Yet, Markram in his first outing as skipper belied those words and picked both Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi at Centurion.
As such, it remains to be seen what sort of wicket is presented to both teams on Wednesday, and whether South Africa will persist with this tactic.
Meanwhile, the Indian team is relishing a fine role reversal from the Test series. While South Africa shot into a 2-0 lead, the visitors had to chop and change repeatedly to find a plausible combination throughout the prior series.
In the present, there is once again no need to change things around. Virat Kohli, who has named 35 different playing elevens in 35 Tests, could very well field the same team for this third successive ODI.
Consistency will give them a boost in what is surely a match of historic significance, albeit a small one, as India has never before won three matches in an ODI bilateral series on the South African soil.
Additionally, India had climbed to the top spot in ICC ODI rankings after their win in Centurion and another win in Cape Town will help them open up a gap in the standings.
A win for South Africa will see India move back to no.2.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen (wk).
Match starts at: 1630hrs IST.