Virat Kohli’s century in Chennai means that India and South Africa will go into their fifth and final One-Day International cricket contest on Sunday in Mumbai with the series victory on the line. Kohli struck 138 on Thursday to help India to a 35-run victory over the Proteas and help them level the series for the second time. But in order to take the series victory, India will now have to win back-to-back matches, something they have failed to do throughout South Africa’s tour, either in the ODIs or in South Africa’s Twenty20 series win.
There was, though, plenty to encourage from India’s performance last time out. Kohli’s century of course grabbed the headlines, but there was also a welcome half-century from Suresh Raina. And after scoring just three runs in the three previous matches, Raina’s return to form in a middle order that has endured its struggles of late has provided captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with a significant boost going into the decisive match of the series.
“It was very important, going into the last game, to have batsmen who have scored runs,” he said after Thursday’s win. “Yes, he made a few bad decisions [in previous games] when it comes to playing the shots. If you go into bat in the last five overs, you can't expect to score fifty runs. But you can look to get 30. But to get 30 runs I have to look to play a minimum of 18 or 15 deliveries. He has to give himself that kind of time.”
What also helped India in match four was for the first real time in the series a pitch in keeping with traditional Indian conditions that offer more help to the spinners. Harbhajan Singh, who was left out of the squad for the first two Test matches against South Africa next month, earned particular plaudits after taking two wickets. The veteran will be needed again for the final ODI, with Ravichandran Ashwin still out with a side strain suffered in the opening match, although expected to return when the Test series gets underway.
South Africa will still hope to take further momentum into that four-match series by adding to their Twenty20 triumph in what has been an impressive tour to date. They came close to sealing victory last time out, but the rest of their batting lineup failed to provide support for a century from captain and world’s top-ranked ODI batsman AB De Villiers. And again the man ranked a place behind De Villiers in those rankings, Hashim Amla, failed to deliver, taking his average in the series to date down to just 16.5. Still, with a player that averages over 50 overall in the 50-over format, South Africa coach Russell Domingo has little concern that Amla will soon return to form.
“Hash is a quality player,” he said in a press conference following the defeat in Chennai. “All players have periods in their careers where they are maybe not churning out the runs like they should, but we know Hashim could get a hundred in Mumbai. He is that type of player. So he is massively important for us and we are not concerned about his form at the moment because we know he'll come good at some stage.”
Start time: 4 a.m. EDT
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