India eyes first-ever ODI series win in South Africa


Port Elizabeth:India would be looking to complete a series win when they take on South Africa in the fourth cricket ODI here Friday.

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India bounced back after their dismal defeat in the first ODI in Durban with two close wins in Johannesburg and Cape Town, taking a 2-1 lead in the five-match series. South Africa, on the other hand, would be desperate to come back after they faltered at crucial stages of the last two ODIs.

If India win Friday, it will be their first series win in South Africa. In the absence of key batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, the win will be more special and a major morale-booster ahead of the World Cup.

Yusuf Pathan played an impressive innings in the last ODI to pull India out of trouble and the big-hitter would like to continue with his hot form here as well while Virat Kohli will be looking to add on to a streak of good performances in the rainbow nation.

However, India’s opening combination is yet to be sorted out. Parthiv Patel, who was flown in as a replacement for injured Sachin Tendulkar, may get a game with Murali Vijay completely out of form. He can partner Rohit Sharma, who opened in the last match.

India can give a chance to their spinners — Piyush Chawla and Ravichandran Ashwin — both of whom have been picked in the World Cup squad. While leg-spinner Chawla has not played in an ODI since July 2008, off-spinner Ashwin, who was the highest wicket-taker in the New Zealand series at home last year, also hasn’t had a game so far.

The South African batting has not clicked barring the first match and their batsmen have struggled to play the spinners in the middle overs. The hosts, however, can draw hope from captain Graeme Smith and J.P. Duminy’s form. All-rounder Faf Du Plessis, who made his debut in Cape Town, has also performed well.

The bowling has been the hosts’ strength with pacers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe in a purple patch and off-spinner Johan Botha complementing the seam attack. Uncapped leg-spinner Imran Tahir may get his first game.

Smith is hopeful that after the announcement of the World Cup squad, the players will play without any pressure.

“Now that the World Cup squad is announced, the tension has kind of lifted on the players and the way they play the game, so hopefully we can play with a bit more freedom.”

The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wicketkeeper), Murali Vijay, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Shantakumaran Sreesanth.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.