India are once again in the position of having to play from behind as they look to prevent a second successive series defeat on home soil to South Africa. A loss in the third One-Day International between the sides at the weekend, means India need a positive result in Chennai on Thursday to avoid the fifth and final ODI becoming a mere coronation for South Africa to add to their Twenty20 success.
It is a familiar position for India, having bounced back from losing the opening 50-overs matchup to claim an impressive victory in match two. But any chance of building momentum from that win was dashed as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side failed to chase down South Africa’s total of 270 in Rajkot. The stuttering batting order was again reconfigured for the fixture, with Ajinkya Rahane moving down to No. 6 and Dhoni and Virat Kohli being shifted up. But, while Kohli and Dhoni put on a promising partnership, India fell away at the end in an 18-run defeat.
Getting someone to deliver in the crucial closing overs has become a growing problem, not helped by Suresh Raina registering back-to-back ducks to leave him with just three runs for the entire series. At the top of the order, opener Shikhar Dhawan has just 59 runs from the three matches. And the pressure is on the side to put in a complete performance in Chennai. After the T20 loss and a first-ever ODI series defeat to Bangladesh in June, India can ill afford another limited-overs setback.
“Obviously, we are in a tricky situation,” veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh said, reports The Indian Express. “We have to win to be in the series. We have got the team which can turn things around. I want to say one thing that the team will be going all out to win the game and from there onwards, we will hopefully put up another good performance. Things can be different in one week’s time.
“We have got such quality in our team that we can score runs on any track. They are all performers and they have won games for India. It is just a matter of time to get adjusted.”
India’s problems have been exacerbated by spinner Amit Mishra having a police complaint filed against him for alleged assault on a female friend, although he is expected to be available on Thursday.
South Africa have their own selection issues. All-rounder JP Duminy has been ruled out of the rest of the series, while pace bowler Morne Morkel is a major doubt having suffered a leg injury after taking four wickets on Sunday. Speaking after the win last time out, though, South Africa captain AB De Villiers explained he was relishing the chance to wrap up the series with a match to spare and to provide ideal preparation for the upcoming Test series between the countries.
“We sit here 2-1 up against India, it's a great position to be here and it's a wonderful opportunity to win the series,” he said, according to The Times of India. “So we won't touch the money yet but we've got a good chance in the last two, we would love to win both. But all the focus will be on the next game in Chennai. We would love to break through there.”
Start time: 4 a.m. EDT
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