With MS Dhoni serving notice that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated, the one-day series between India and South Africa is nicely poised at 1-1 heading into the third ODI in Rajkot on Sunday.
Dhoni’s swashbuckling 92 not out turned the match in Indore on its head and Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh responded with some incisive spin bowling and were ably backed up by the swing and seam of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The batting has been iffy, with Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina in particular having a hard time of it. Raina has lasted a total of eight deliveries over two games while Kohli hasn’t gone past 30 in his last seven innings. India need at least two of them to get their groove back because Rohit Sharma and Dhoni aren’t going to produce the kind of innings they have in the first two games every day.
On the flip side, India appear to have, at least for the time being, settled the issue of Ajinkya Rahane and his place in the line-up. Dhoni has made it clear Rahane will bat at No. 3 and Kohli at No. 4. Of course that means Dhoni can’t bat any higher than No. 5 but given how he batted in the last game, he can still do the job (provided he gets to come in early enough).
India’s bowling remains a work in progress as well.
Including Axar in the playing XI means India had to leave out Amit Mishra, while R Ashwin’s recovery from a side strain is uncertain, so Harbhajan could find himself getting a second game. Umesh Yadav’s inconsistency is another problem and Dhoni could well make a change for Rajkot.
Meanwhile South Africa will want to regroup after Indore and put the match behind them. It is a game they had control of and even after Dhoni’s knock, a target of 248 was not beyond them. South Africa captain AB de Villiers was critical of the way some of his top order batsmen got out – “most of the dismissals were pretty soft” – and you’d expect South Africa to tighten up their approach.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh.
South Africa: AB De Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf Du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, Khaya Zondo, Aaron Phangiso, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada.