CUTTACK: Outwitted in the opener at Dharamsala, hosts India will be desperate to avenge the defeat in the second fixture and level the three-match T20I series here at the Barabati Stadium on Monday. But that will not be an easy job for the director-skipper combo of Ravi Shastri and MS Dhoni, considering India will be under tremendous pressure and cannot afford another slip-up.
A stronger side on paper, India flattered to deceive in the series opener, mainly because of their inexperienced and vulnerable bowling attack. Axar Patel’s 22-run-over, which included three successive sixes, was emblematic of their lackadaisical bowling. Left-arm pacer Sreenath Aravind made a forgettable debut, leaking 44 runs in 3.4 overs. Both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma went wicketless and conceded 10 runs per over. The only saving grace was the effort of offie Ravichandran Ashwin, who not only gave India the first breakthrough by castling danger-man AB de Villiers but also finished with an impressive economy of 6.50. In fact, the bowlers spoiled what was an excellent job by the batsmen, especially Rohit Sharma, who slammed his maiden T20I hundred.
The Proteas won the match because they played smart cricket. They were confident and did not hesitate to take the risk. While chasing a daunting target, they never buckled under pressure. They knew it well that one over would be enough to come up trumps, and Duminy was the man who executed the plan with clinical precision.
Of course, South Africa’s bowling attack was no better than their counterparts. Their key spinner Imran Tahir was ineffective and expensive. So were speedsters Chris Morris and Marchant de Lange. But new-ball bowlers Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada made up for the failure of their teammates with an economy of eight or less per over. Abbott also had the credit of dismissing both Sharma and Kohli.
Considering the lacklustre bowling performance at Dharamsala, both teams are most likely to make a couple of changes for the Barabati tie. In India’s case, Patel and Aravind may be replaced by Amit Mishra and Stuart Binny. The Proteas may bring in Albie Morkel and Eddie Leie.
But whatever be the composition of teams, the second T20I is unlikely to as friendly for batsmen as it was in the first game. Given the low and slow nature of the Barabati surface, bowlers might enjoy the upper hand. The moisture content of the soil would make the surface slow. Dew factor, too, is expected to inconvenience the side bowling second.
However, the much awaited first-ever T20I at Barabati may once again prove to be a non-starter with rain threatening to play spoilsport. Thundershowers greeted both the teams on their arrival in Bhubaneswar on Saturday. Worse, the meteorological department has predicted more rain for the next two days.