After an impressive 22-run victory in in Indore, India have reason to head into their third One-Day International with South Africa on Sunday with renewed belief. Having dropped a Twenty20 series against the same opponents, followed by their opening ODI, India and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni were facing ever-increasing scrutiny going into Wednesday’s matchup. But they delivered just the response that was required to halt the momentum South Africa had built up since arriving on Indian soil. In a five-match Series, India will now have the chance to move into the driving seat in Rajkot.
Crucially, their captain has found his form with the bat. No Indian player has faced more pressure than Dhoni, having struggled to flourish in the limited-over formats as he once did and as he hoped he would after steeping down from the captaincy of the Test team last December. But he rolled back the years with an unbeaten 92 on Wednesday to guide his team from 104 on the board with five wickets down to a total of 247. Yet the 36-year-old is not expecting the weight to be lifted from his shoulders just because of one big score.
“There’s always pressure when you play for the India cricket team,” he said at his press conference after the victory in Indore. “Even when you scored a hundred, the next game the expectation level keeps going up. It does put a lot of pressure on the individual and you can’t really get away from it. I’ve never played an international game, and I’ve played of lot of different opposition, where we were not under pressure.”
Victory last time out also came about with the help of a key lineup shift from Dhoni and the selectors. Despite being in impressive wicket-taking form for his country, Amit Mishra was left out of the team in the second ODI, with Axar Patel replacing him in an attempt to deepen the side’s batting. And, with Dhoni saying afterward that it is no longer possible in the modern game to play without someone who is handy with the bat at No. 7, the formula looks set to remain the same on Sunday.
As it turns out, Patel was far more effective with the ball in his hand, taking three wickets to restrict South Africa to 225. Yet it left the Proteas deeply frustrated after their stacked batting lineup failing to fire.
“Most of the dismissals I thought were pretty soft,” South Africa captain AB De Villiers said afterward. “We had great partnerships going up front, and with that kind of experience we should be finishing games. I think responsibility has got to be on the batters shoulders tonight, the top seven. It’s not nice to lose that way, but I think quite a few lessons will be learned. We know we should have won that game.”
After winning the opening match of their last ODI series on the road against Bangladesh in July before failing away to a series defeat, South Africa will be especially eager to right the ship on Wednesday.
Start time: 4 a.m. EDT
TV channel: Willow TV
Live stream: Willow.TV