It was to be like any other series – teams play five T20Is, have a look at their team combinations keeping in mind the T20 World Cup next year.
But this wasn’t any other series. Rain has lashed Surat, where the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium is located. Due to that, the second and the third T20Is could not be played. As a result the fifth match was scheduled for Thursday (October 3) as an additional match. It was decided on a short notice and credit must go to the Surat District Cricket Association for making all the necessary arrangements and hosting the game successfully.
Spin seems to be South Africa’s nemesis on the tour. India’s spin trio of Deepti Sharma, Poonam Yadav and Radha Yadav have been amongst the wickets and compounded problems for the tourists. Even the part-time services of Harmanpreet Kaur have been tough to handle for South Africa. On Thursday, the Indian spinners took seven of the eight South African wickets to fall.
With a quick turnaround between games it would be tough for the visitors to work on their weaknesses and find a way to win. Back-to-back games are not easy on teams that are on a losing spree. Such situations reveal the character of a team and Sune Luus’ charges will aim just for that.
One of the positives to have emerged from the fifth game has been South Africa’s bowling. “We had a huddle before we went out. We said we are going to take everything on the field today, whether it goes bad or it goes good,” said Luus, the captain. “I think we fought till the end. Everybody motivated everybody every single ball. There was no bad attitude on the ground and no sloppy fielding. We did extremely well in that department. Huge positive. As batters we need to back our bowlers and give them a win.”
India, on the other hand, have been winning games. Turning up for the final match of the series on Friday (October 4) shouldn’t be a task for them, given that they are the happier camp. Moreover, throughout the series, although India haven’t had practice sessions – their sessions were rained out on more than one occasion – they have looked a well-oiled machine and have had – a slightly weakened – South Africa’s number throughout.
Come Friday, what can we expect? Team changes galore? For South Africa, will Sinalo Jafta, the young wicketkeeper-batter, get a game? She isn’t a part of the ODI side for them. Will either of Shabnim Ismail or Ayabonga Khaka be rested? Will India give Arundhati Reddy a go? Will we see a pace-heavy attack for the final T20I from the home side? How much will they want to tinker with their combination?
These are questions that will be answered on Friday evening. The final match of the T20I series provides another chance for the people of Surat to witness an international match for the last time in this series. That they will come in large numbers is a given.
The weather is forecast to be cloudy. Let’s hope the r..(Shhhh… won’t jinx it!) stays away!
India: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey, Poonam Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Anuja Patil, Deepti Sharma, Mansi Joshi, Jemimah Rodrigues, Pooja Vastrakar, Taniya Bhatia (wk), Radha Yadav, Harleen Deol, Arundhati Reddy, Shafali Verma
South Africa: Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, Sune Luus (c), Lizelle Lee, Ayabonga Khaka, Lara Goodall, Laura Wolvaardt, Sinalo Jafta (wk), Anne Bosch, Nadine de Klerk, Tazmin Brits, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nondumiso Shangase, Nonkululeko Mlaba