Johannesburg: Beaming in confidence after three consecutive wins, India will press hard to pocket a historic ODI series when they face a depleted South Africa, who will hope for some AB de Villiers’ magic in the fourth one-dayer at the New Wanderers Stadium here on Saturday.
With an unassailable 3-0 lead in hand, the Virat Kohli-led outfit need just one more win in the six-match series to claim their maiden ODI triumph on South African soil and also cement their place atop the International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI rankings.
Previously, India came close taking a 2-1 lead in the 2010-11 series under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, only to lose 2-3 eventually.
Going in to the fourth ODI, India’s only concern will be the consecutive failures of opener Rohit Sharma, but not so much that Kohli will tinker with the winning combination in the crucial game.
Despite Rohit’s woes with the willow, the top order comprising Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli came out all guns blazing in the third ODI, with the captain registering his 34th ODI ton to lift his team to a commanding 303 even after the middle order collapsed.
Dhawan too struck a fine half century to forge a 140-run second wicket stand that laid the foundation at Cape Town.
India’s bowling has clicked excellently in the three matches so far, with the wrist spin duo of leggie Yuzvendra Chahal and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, accounting for 21 out of the 30 wickets.
Despite practicing with local wrist spinners at Newlands, the Proteas’ batting line-up still collapsed against the Indian spin duo, with both Chahal and Kuldeep taking four wickets apiece. Whether this will change on Saturday remains to be seen.
Saturday’s match also holds special significance for the South Africans. It is the ‘Pink ODI’, played for the awareness against breast cancer and for the benefit of those suffering from the disease. It was first held in 2011, and this will be the sixth such occasion.
In fact, the Proteas have never lost when playing in their unique pink jersey and will hope to replicate that in the fourth game.
The hosts will also hope for some respite after de Villiers was, on Thursday, added to their ODI squad for the remaining three matches.
The star batsman missed the first three ODIs owing to a finger injury he had sustained during the third Test. However, Cricket South Africa (CSA) will acccess de Villiers’ fitness on Friday afternoon — 24 hours before the game — before taking a call on his availability for the match.
If he is fit and available, it is expected that de Villiers will bat at No.3 with Jean Paul Duminy dropping down to No.4. One of David Miller or Khaya Zondo will make way for him in the playing XI.
The hosts will also expect a solid foundation from the opening due of Hashim Amla and stand-in skipper Aiden Markram to put pressure on the Indian pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (Captain), Hashim Amla, Jean Paul Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen (WK), AB de Villiers.