India look to set record straight at St Georges Park, eye maiden series win in South Africa

[caption id="attachment_62977" align="alignnone" width="580"]DSC09473 MS Dhoni during the optional practice session of the Indian team on Monday. Image Source: Xtra Time[/caption]

Debasis Sen, Port Elizabeth: India will look to set their dismal record straight here at St Georges Park when they take on the Proteas in the fifth ODI. The men in blue have lost all 5 ODIs played here since 1992. Four of those defeats came against South Africa, while they were humbled by minnows Kenya during the one-day triangular as part of their 2001-02 tour.

In fact in their five previous ODI outings here, India has never scored 200 runs here as 176 against South Africa in October 2001 is their highest total yet.
Kohli and his team will look to crush a South African revival before it becomes a threat to their pursuit of a maiden ODI series triumph here when the two sides clash on Tuesday.
The Men in Blue still have a two-match cushion in the six-ODI series following their wins in Durban, Centurion and Cape Town. The hosts bounced back by winning the rain-affected and lightning-struck Pink ODI in Johannesburg by five wickets.

Proteas batsmen Heinrich Klaasen, AB de Villiers and David Miller will once again pose a potential threat to the Indian bowling attack. All three Proteas batsmen were seen practising big hitting against spinners. It seems they will be employing the sweep shots more often against the spinners, as was evident during the practice session.

India's team selection will come into focus in Port Elizabeth. There are still question-marks about the fitness of Kedar Jadhav, who suffered a hamstring injury in Cape Town and missed the previous game. The Maharshtra batsman might be replaced with Manish Pandey, who batted long at the nets today. Pandey was among the eight Indian cricketers who turned up for the practice session today. Accompanying Manish for the optional practice was MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav.

Surprisingly, Yuzuvendra Chahal skipped the practice session on Tuesday. It was the leg spinner’s blunder (bowled a no ball) that shifted the momentum in favour of the home team. Another concern for the visitors is the form of the middle order batsmen. Axar Patel was seen rolling his arms for a long time at the nets. But it is unlikely he will get a nod ahead of Chahal.

Another concern for the Indian team will be the middle order batting. The Indian captain Virat Kohli (393 runs) along with opener Shikhar Dhawan (271 runs) has been the consistent performers with the bat.

Ajinkya Rahane has scored 11 and 8 since making a comeback 79 at no.4. Pandya's forgettable tour with the bat (since the first Test in early January) continues, with scores of 14 and 9 in his last two outings. MS Dhoni's 42 not out (off 43 balls) was the only saving grace for this shaky middle-order as India struggled to finish well at Johannesburg.

The series' score-line has conveniently hid the fact that India have a top-heavy batting order, despite the poor form of Rohit Sharma, who has scored 40 runs in the first four ODIs and boasts a gradually sinking ODI average of 11.45 in 12 matches on South African soil. This fact will not go overlooked and South Africa will be keen to exploit the Indian line-up's frailty and dismiss Kohli and Dhawan cheaply to gain an early advantage.

Once again on this trip, India will have to fight dubious past performances and erase a lop-sided record, only this time in a bid to carve out a fresh piece of history.



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